Tommy Prindle will never be one of the top cross country runners in his district; heck, the 15-year-old will probably never be the top runner on his own team. But if there's an area Prindle has every runner beat, it's in the heart and determination department.
Not to get all sappy and over-dramatic, but the freshman at Cannon (South Carolina) School is definitely the kind of feel-good story people need in a sports world where scandals and cheating seem to dominate the news on a daily basis.
As the Charlotte Observer noted in a moving feature, Prindle has only been a member of the Cannon cross country team for one season, but he's already left an indelible mark on his teammates and the runners he's come across. That's because unlike most of the runners he competes against, Prindle has to deal with muscular dystrophy on a daily basis.
For the past five years, Prindle has dealt with the pain, lethargy and loss of muscle tissue that comes along with the horrible disease. While muscular dystrophy forced him from playing football and soccer in high school -- the toll on his body would have been too much -- he decided he still wanted to compete in some sport.
Enter cross country. Even though the sport is low impact, the thought of Prindle running every day is something most couldn't fathom. But instead of complaining, he made the most of the situation, never missing a practice and running the final third of the team's 5K races.
But despite being part of the team, Prindle wanted to be like the rest of his teammates and complete an entire 5K. As the Charlotte Obsever said, he decided to pick one of the biggest races of the season to complete the entire 3.1 miles.
Of course, Prindle completed the entire course at the Cannon Invitational, running the last 1,200 meters or so to a standing ovation as he crossed the finish line.
"I was so scared," Melyssa Prindle, Tommy's mother, who also has M.D., told the Charlotte Obsever. "I thought they would run and be finished and Tommy would be last and they would make fun of him. Instead, they have like 800 kids from all these different schools... They cheered him and screamed his name."
Needless to say, it was an emotional moment for everybody involved. While finishing the race was an incredible experience for Prindle, it seemed to have an even bigger impact on his teammates, who were blown away by their teammate's drive to finish despite the pain and fatigue he was feeling as he hit the home stretch of the race.
"You could tell he had a fire in his eyes and wanted to finish," Cannon cross country captain Tim Gruber told the Charlotte Observer. "He wanted to show everybody that regardless of what he has, he can do anything he sets his mind to ... I told myself I should never, ever, complain about anything being too hard or say, 'I can't do this.' Look at Tommy."