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It was a display of true sportsmanship and genuine kindness.
The actions of Megan Erickson will be remembered long after the 2017 District D-5 Cross Country Meet in Ainsworth on Thursday.
Erickson, a senior runner from North Central, rounded the corner toward the finish line when she saw another runner go down. Her eyes were no longer on the finish line just 50 meters ahead. Without hesitation, she ran straight to sophomore Emma Bixler of Neligh-Oakdale.
“I saw her when I came around the corner,” Erickson said. “She was staggering side-to-side and falling. I just thought she deserved to cross the finish line, and if I could help her do that, I was going to.”
She reached around Bixler’s shoulders to keep her upright and walking toward the finish line. They were getting closer, both of them still easily in the top 15, even as some runners passed them. But even with help, Bixler struggled and went down. Erickson tried to allow her to cross the finish line on her own.
“I saw she couldn’t go,” she said. “I tried to hold her up. I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry her, so I just pulled her across. I wanted to help her so she could have as close to the place as she deserved.”
Erickson and Bixler were both disqualified. According to Ron Higdon, NSAA assistant director, “as soon as she helped her at all, it’s considered aiding.” He said if a runner receives assistance during a race, they are both disqualified, as clearly defined in the National Federation rules book.
Erickson said she “had a pretty good idea” that she would be disqualified for her actions and helped Bixler anyway.
Fortunately, the 18-year-old still is able to run at state next week because her team earned third place at districts, qualifying the entire team. Erickson said this will be her fourth straight appearance.
“I’m amazed and humbled that they could do it on their own,” she said.
The three juniors and one freshman came through for her. As the lone senior runner for her team that day, Erickson is setting an example for her team, and all of us.