Too often we get so caught up in the moment of competition that we fail to notice events that transform athletes from aggressive, self centered, win at all costs people into something more genuine, caring and human. Admittedly we humans have some serious flaws whether ingrained by genetics or reflected by our evolving societal standards. History has demonstrated unimaginable cruetly of man on man, and our history books are punctuated and demarcated by chains of endless war. But sometimes that lust for being the victor or being better than someone else is cast away, and the high side of our nature peaks out from behind those dark clouds.
There have been innumerable tales in our sport of such events. The friendship of Jesse Owens and Luz Long in 1936 under the grey skies of the Third Reich. John Landy stopping to help up a younger fallen comrade, Ron Clarke during a race. The embrace of C.K. Yang and Rafer Johnson, teammates and opponents in the Decathlon in Rome in 1960. Followers of this blog like to read about what happened more than fifty years ago, and we are less interested in today's track when we see our sport has become more and more commercialized, more and more crass in its determination to gain unfair advantage spurred on by financial reward.
Recently at the NCAA Division II Championships something occurred that would cause us to think that we were looking at the past once again. Two young men, one from Central Missouri University and one from the University of Findlay shared a moment that they will be able to hold onto for the rest of their lives. I'll let the words of Marc Arce, University of Findlay track coach tell you what went on, so that you will better understand. Here is a letter that Marc sent to the AD and President of the University of Central Missouri. Marc gave us permission to share this with you and hopes that you will pass it on to others. George Brose
March 14, 2017
Dr. Charles M. Ambrose, President
Mr. Jerry Hughes, Athletic Director
Central Missouri University
500 S. Washington Street
Warrensburg, MO 64093
I would like to take the opportunity to share with you the highs and lows of an NCAA Championships and the ultimate sportsmanship exhibited by Devin Cornelius, a senior member of the track & field team at Central Missouri University. Trey Everett is a junior at the University of Findlay, who like Devin is a multiple NCAA II All-American. This past weekend, both young men competed in the heptathlon at the NCAA II Indoor Championships in Birmingham, AL. This is a two day competition in which the entrants compete against each other over seven events, scoring points based on each event's performance This was Trey's first heptathlon competition at a national championships as he previously competed only as a high jumper. Over the two days, Trey was exceeding our expectations and entered the final event , the 1000m run in fourth place. Trey was 150m from the finish line when he tripped, lost his balance and unitentionally stepped into the infield of the track. Several runners passed him, but to his credit, and to the credit and pride of every multi-eventer, he got back on the track and finished the race. When the final score was tabulated, Trey lost one place, finishing fifth overall, with Devin one place behind in sixth. Awards were distributed soon after in recognition of the top eight finishers.
Unbeknown to most at the time, a protest had been lodged by the coach of the ninth place athlete, requesting a disqualification of Trey for stepping inside of the track, not completing the race distance as prescribed. Ultimately the referee concurred and disqualified Trey and the Jury of Appeals upheld his decision after extended deliberation. The decision of this coach to file a protest was questioned by many of my colleagues there, including that of the Central Missouri coach, as Trey did not gain any advantage, rather his mishap resulted in a much slower time in the race. What this coach does not fully comprehend is that there is a bond that is developed through athletes competing in the heptathlon that extends well beyond those who won or lost. Devin understands this, as his actions that followed the competition clearly demonstrate.
Trey accepted the results, taking responsibility for stepping inside the track and returned his fifth-place trophy as requested by the NCAA. Devin took it upon himself to seek out Trey on the last evening of the meet, following the closing ceremonies. Accompanied by CMU graduate assistant coach Mathew Harris, Devin gave his sixth-place trophy to Trey, a gesture that symbolized an injustice had occurred. Devin's sportmanship exceeds everything that took place during and after that competition. He understands the comradery that is developed between this select group of athletes over the many times, grueling two-day competition and recognizes the efforts of those competing with him, not against him. It is my hope that the coach who filed the protest will one day reach the maturity level of this young man.
I thank Devin for easing the pain and disappointment that Trey had been feeling. His sportsmanship is truly felt, not only by Trey, but by our entire team. With one simple gesture, he impacted many, many people. Years from now when Trey looks at that trophy, he will not remember how fast he ran, how far he threw, or how high he jumped; but will be reminded of an act of friendship and sportsmanship that will endure forever.
For me personally , I did not want this act to go unrecognized. I have been coaching at the collegiate level for over 30 years. Devin has restored much faith in all that is good in college athletics. Central Missouri University should be proud of Devin for his accoplishments on the track and his actions off the track. CMU should also be proud of the influence of his coaches, Kip Janvrin and Kirk Pederen who represent their institution with the utmost professionalism. You have a first-class program.
Marc M. Arce
Head Track and Field Coach
Jon Hendershott loved this story and sent the following comment. He claims it's off the top of his head and thinks there might be a few cobwebs in the way, but I checked it out and his memory serves him well. GB