Josh Ripley didn't have to stop. Running in a recent cross country meet for Andover (Minn.) High, the junior varsity runner was making his way through the trail at the Applejack Invite when he heard a loud scream during the first mile of a two-mile race. Most of the other kids running didn't pay much attention to Lakeville South runner Mark Paulauskas, who was writhing in pain at the time, as they passed by.
The only person who decided to pay attention was Ripley. As an Anoka-Hennepin school district release reported, Ripley immediately noticed Paulauskas holding his bloody ankle. Then, instead of running back and calling for help, he did the only thing he could think of: He carried the injured runner a half mile back to coaches and family members.
"I didn't think about my race, I knew I needed to stop and help him," Ripley said in the school district release. "It was something I would expect my other teammates to do. I'm nothing special; I was just in the right place at the right time."
It was a good thing Ripley had the foresight to carry Paulauskas so he could be rushed to the emergency room. When Paulauskas arrived at the hospital, doctors realized he had been accidentally spiked by another runner's shoe during the race. The injury required 20 stitches and a walking boot to keep the wounded area from opening up.
Andover cross country coach Scott Clark couldn't believe what he heard when word got to him that Ripley was carrying another runner back to the starting line.
"Then Josh comes jogging into view carrying a runner," Clark said. "I noticed the blood on the runner's ankle as Josh handed him off to one of the coaches from Lakeville. Josh was tired and you could tell his focus was off as he started back on the course."
Amazingly, the story gets even better from there.
After dropping Paulauskas off with his coaches, Ripley proceeded to go back and finish the race -- even after carrying a kid for a half mile on the running trail. Admittedly he was a bit winded, but still completed the course as scheduled.
It's safe to say the average athlete would have taken a breather and called off the rest of the race after such a harrowing and intense experience. Luckily, Ripley is clearly not the average athlete. Fittingly, he'll be honored at a school board meeting next week. Talk about an incredible example of sportsmanship.
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