In one of the more generous incidents in recent prep sports memory, a Florida girls cross country team voluntarily gave up their runners-up medals and trophy to a school which they felt deserved them more, and they did so entirely of their own volition, without any influence of a coach or other adult.
On Monday, Prep Rally wrote about the Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage School girls cross country team, which was knocked out of what was eventually determined to be a second place finish at the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 2A state cross country meet because of a bizarre mix up with the timing chips on the shoes of two team members.
Those mismatched timing chips -- which are used to ensure that a runner follows the correct course and crosses the finish line and all check points -- dropped American Heritage down to a fifth place finish, even though the team felt it should have finished much higher. As it turns out, the American Heritage runners weren't alone in that sentiment, with the school that did finish in second place going to extreme lengths to let their opponents know that how they felt about American Heritage's performance.
As reported by Jacksonville's FirstCoastNews.com, the Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles School girls cross country team, which was bumped up from third place to second in the Class 2A meet by the American Heritage disqualifications, voluntarily decided to give their runners-up medals and trophy to the team they felt should rightfully have finished there.
According to Bolles senior runner Micayla Costa, there was no debate among the Bolles team about what to do because they all knew that the American Heritage runners deserved the honor more than they did. In fact, the team had already gathered and decided to hand over their medals and trophy before Bolles cross country coach Tony Ryan could speak to them about it.
"We huddled up in a group to talk about it," Costa told FirstCoastNews. "The team decided not to keep the trophy, the medals and the runner-up title."
That meant a quick turnaround from the medal stand, where the Bolles girls had stood on the runners-up platform next to newly crowned 2A champion Miami (Fla.) Carrollton School, to a nearby huddle where the American Heritage squad was still in a state of shock over its sudden fall.
Without letting them know what they planned to do, the Bolles team members walked over to American Heritage runners and presented them with the second place medals. As one might expect, the reaction was emotional.
"I took off my medal and I gave it to [an American Heritage runner]," Bolles sophomore Lily Arnold told FirstCoastNews. "And once I put it around her neck, she started to cry."
While American Heritage's runners were the most obvious beneficiaries of the Bolles squad's immense generosity, runners from the Jacksonville school insist that they took as much away from the experience as they would have from a state title. That's saying something for a school which has a multitude of cross country and track titles to its name.
"This was worth so much more than a state championship," Arnold told FirstCoastNews.