GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Often times, athletes can't remember their first home run, touchdown, or their personal best time in running. But, they do remember moments within their chosen sport, when competition is replaced by compassion.
A pair of Michigan high school runners recently experienced just that, while they recently battled against each other during the state cross country championships.
On Friday, Nov. 6, the Michigan High School Athletic Association hosted the state cross country championships at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Grand Rapids West Catholic and Remus Chippewa Hills were among several high schools within the state competing for state championships.
Grand Rapids West Catholic junior Maggie Duba was running, but experiencing cramps, but still hoping to notch her fourth straight personal best time.
"I wasn't having a great run," said Duba, who says she was targeting her first sub-19-minute finish. "I started to cramp up, but fought through the pain."
As Duba was approaching a hundred yards from the finish line, she saw a fellow competitor had fallen. She was on her hands and knees, clearly in distress.
"From a distance, I saw that all the other runners were running around her," said Duba. "Instantly, I thought that anyone who's worked that hard to go to the state meet deserves to finish the race."
As Duba reached the distressed runner, without hesitation, she stopped her sprint to the finish and helped her fellow competitor to her feet.
"When I grabbed her, she was limp and out of it," said Duba. "As I was pulling her up, I said, 'You're not, not finishing this; you're so close and put in all this work.'"
The struggling runner was Sarah Storey, who is a junior at Remus Chippewa Hills High School.
"My legs gave out from under me," Storey said. "I just couldn't move anymore even though I wanted to."
Duba and Storey, with their arms locked, ran together toward the finish line. The two runners, strangers, ran the next 50 yards together, before Storey seemed to find her legs, let go, and was able to cross the finish line by herself.
"Nobody wants to go to the state finals and collapse right when you can see the finish line," said Storey. "I was just glad that [Maggie] did what she did for me."
Storey was immediately given medical attention when she finished the race. She was given a clean bill of health.
Duba and Storey never connected again at MIS, but the two have struck up a connection in recent days, thanks to social media.
"We've become friends," said Duba.
Storey says the whole experience has taught her a valuable lesson.
"We all want to win, especially in the state finals, but I think this just goes to show that there's more to sports than winning," said Storey. "We're going to remember what Maggie did; I'll remember what she did for the rest of my life."
When the pandemic subsides, Duba and Storey say they hope to connect again in person and go for a run together.
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