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Ohio runner stops in state final to aid fallen opponent

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

On Saturday, West Liberty-Salem (Ohio) High junior Meghan Vogel won a state title. Incredibly, that might not even be what she or anyone else remembers most about her day at the Ohio Division III track and field state meet, because she later committed one of the most selfless acts of the year on the track: She stopped running the 3,200-meter final to help along a foe who had collapsed just 20 feet from the finish line.

As first reported by the Springfield News-Sun and Dayton Daily News, Vogel had already captured the state 1,600-meter title when she came upon Arlington (Ohio) High sophomore Arden McMath near the finish line of the 3,200-meter final. Both Vogel and McMath were out of contention for the medals in the event at that point, and rather than try and make a final, mad dash, Vogel decided she was better served helping ensure McMath made it to the finish line.

"I was kind of blacking out," McMath told the Daily News. "I wasn't too aware of my surroundings. I was just trying to keep going. When my body gave out, she was there. It was amazing.

"I just told her, 'Thank you.' I just couldn't believe she'd done that for me. We're all in it together as distance runners. Everyone is trying to do their best. It's a lot harder on your body than a lot of the other races. We just try to help each other."

The result was nothing short of electrifying, as you can see from the video above. With each step, the cheering crowd at Ohio State's Jesse Owens Stadium seemed to get louder and louder, finally reaching its zenith when McMath crossed the finish line just in front of Vogel.

In fact, even that final finishing order was Vogel's idea; after all, McMath had been ahead of her when she collapsed.

While McMath and her teammates may have been most touched by Vogel's charitable actions, the state champion insisted that she got just as much out of the charitable act.

"Helping her across the finish line was a lot more satisfying than winning the state championship," Vogel told the News-Sun.

Technically, Vogel should have been disqualified for helping McMath, as regulations call for any runners aiding another to be disqualified from their event. Yet, perhaps in line with the spirit of Vogel's touching act, Ohio officials failed to disqualify either runner, with final standings crediting McMath for a 14th-place finish and showing Vogel crossing the line in 15th place.

"She could have just gone around Arden," Arlington coach Paul Hunter told the News-Sun. "But she chose to help. I've never seen that at a state meet. That's real sportsmanship."

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