The 2013 State Cross Country Championship meet took place on Saturday. And the true winner from this race, had nothing to do with crossing the finish line first. SportzEdge on the Scene Host Erika Wachter has the story of a touching display of sportsmanship.
Achievement First Amistad High School junior Kayla Samuel was in pure bliss on Saturday, as she closed in on the finish line.
“I saw the fans at the end and all of the flags, and I got this rush like I always do, and I was just so happy and I was just going. And then, that’s when I saw her,” said Samuel.
Samuel was nearing the finish when she saw Maryn Vaillancourt, a junior from Sacred Heart High School, in front of her, beginning to struggle after overheating and twisting her ankle.
“I started getting really hot and then I tripped and hurt my ankle. I was having trouble breathing, so I was slowing down,” said Vaillancourt. “I just tried to walk it off and just try and finish.”
Seeing Vaillancourt in obvious pain, Samuel, was determined to help make that finish happen.
“I sort of felt like she, she didn’t feel the rush that I was feeling. So I wanted to help her,” said Samuel. “You really don’t leave anyone behind. Even if that is someone you know or you don’t know.”
So, Samuel stepped in to help the only way she knew how. She caught up to Vaillancourt and locked arms with her, running arm in arm the rest of the way.
“I was a little afraid at first because I didn’t know who it was,” said Vaillancourt. “And then she started encouraging me to finish and she wouldn’t leave me. So, I just thought she was really nice.”
For the second time this season, Samuel was a teammate to a competitor. She was just simply disguised in a different uniform.
“My goal right there at that moment was to make sure she finished, and in a good position,” said Samuel. “You have to realize there are other people with you. Just because you want that perfect time, or you want that perfect place, you need to make sure others are happy about the race, even if that means sacrificing your own time or your own position.”
So, it was a no-brainer when the girls reached the finish line. Samuel let go, so Vaillancourt could finish one place ahead of her.
“Oh, I did not want her to do that. I wanted her to finish first because she deserved it more than I did,” said Vaillancourt. “She could’ve just passed me like all the other people. She just decided to stop and help me.”
Touched by the selfless act, Vaillancourt took to social media, hoping to get the chance to thank Samuel.
On Wednesday, it happened. The pair reunited with their families at Samuel’s school in New Haven. The Vaillancourt’s bringing Samuel flowers, and a picture frame with a photo of the duo of them inside. The girls, both shy in nature, immediately hit it off. After sharing a hug and some conversation, Samuel showed her school off to Vaillancourt, and the pair discussed the future. Both girls are already looking forward to next year’s meet…and building a friendship.
“I’ve helped people out before, so I never thought it would come to this. But, I kind of like it! I hope we keep in touch,” Samuel said excitedly.
With no hesitation, Vaillancourt agreed; Expressing her thanks to Samuel one final time.
“This is just thanks to you. I never expected to be helped and I’m just so happy you did that for me,” said Vaillancourt.
Side by side once again, it seems to be the start of an unbreakable bond.