SNHU Runners' Selfless Acts Make Race One to Remember

Friday, October 16, 2009
SNHU Communications Office

By Michael Ghika
On a day in which the Southern New Hampshire University's men's cross country team competed at the New England Cross Country Championship, two members of the team were faced with sudden and unforeseen circumstances at Boston's Franklin Park.


Tyler Parks and Michael Smith

Last Saturday, October 10, midway through the third mile of the eight kilometer course, SNHU junior captain Michael Smith (Lynnfield, Mass.) came across a Boston University runner who seemingly had passed out and was unconscious on the ground.

"I saw him lying motionless and stopped to see if he was all right because he was face down," said Smith. "When he didn't respond initially, I yelled at him to try and wake him."

Smith proceeded to help the runner up as he regained some consciousness when a teammate, sophomore Tyler Parks (Moultonborough, N.H.), who had been just seconds behind Smith, ran over to help within the deep woods of the course.

"He was not conscious until we both got a hold of him and started asking what his name was and if he knew where he was," said Parks. "He told us his name but could not remember where he was until we told him."

Each with one of the runner's arms over his shoulders, both Smith and Parks proceeded to carefully take the runner out of the woods to an area with more spectators and to the nearest medical tent. His legs were weak and he was unable to walk on his own, but the two escorted him out of the woods to find an ambulance pulling up in preparation to take the runner away.

"This specific BU runner was running a time close to 28 minutes for the five miles," said Smith. "I found him at 29 minutes so he had probably been on the ground for three or four minutes. When I got there, probably more than 100 other runners had passed him while he was lying there."

As a result, neither Smith nor Parks finished the 47-team race with over 300 participants, meaning that only five members of the seven-man Penmen team finished in a contest where a minimum five are required to finish in order to qualify in the overall standings.

"Tyler and I really didn't think about the standings until after we brought him to the ambulance," said Smith. "It just made sense to us to stop and help even if it had meant it would disqualify us as a team."

The unconscious runner turned out to be fine, as he apparently passed out from dehydration.

When he got back to his office Tuesday morning after the holiday weekend, SNHU Director of Athletics Chip Polak had a message on his phone from Benjamin Horton, a runner at Saint Anselm who saw Mike and Tyler assist the BU runner.  He wanted to let Polak know the school should be proud of the two runners after carrying out a task much more important than any competition could call for.

 "I wanted to commend them," said Horton in his message to Polak. "I thought they did a great thing."

 "This is what true sports is all about," said Polak. "In an era where sports are greatly demeaned in so many ways, this goes to show that helping another human is more important than winning a race. For them to sacrifice their own positioning in a race to help somebody else was truly a selfless act."

Michael Ghika is a junior SNHU sports information student assistant and also the sports editor of the school newspaper, The Observer.

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