Grace Christian runner shows sportsmanship by helping teammate across finish line

Athletes of the week getting across the finish line at state
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 9:37 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Normally the Athlete of the Week segment is based on performance or placement, but this time around it was for a different type of performance.

The Division II state boy’s cross country running championship race started just like any other race: athletes from schools across Alaska pushed through the muddy conditions on the Bartlett High School trails in hopes of helping their teams capture a state championship. In the majority of these races the most memorable moment is when the winner crosses the finish line — but in this case, it happened right before the finish.

“The mindset our coach always gives us is that you are a sprinter now, that’s what she tells us,” runner Colton Merriner said. “Okay, I have 200 meters left you know, everything I have, this is it. And in my mind I didn’t even consider the possibility that I would not be able to finish.”

Just a few meters away from the finish line, Merriner’s body started to fail him and his legs began to stumble.

That’s when his teammate Geremu Daggett, who had run with Merriner for most of the race, stopped just inches away from the finish to turn back and help his friend.

“I was pushing him and then I started getting ahead, but I kept looking back just to make sure he was right next to me on that heel and right before the finish I kept looking so I saw him fall, and I’m like if I cross this finish line I can’t go back and help my teammate,” Daggett said. “So I stopped right there and ran back and helped him up. In in the moment, I didn’t have time to think about rules or whatever, I just helped him up — well, more dragged him across the finish line,”

The two finished the race together, with Daggett pulling his unconscious teammate’s left arm. The on-site medical teams at the meet later told Merriner that he was unresponsive for two minutes, with a heart rate of 180 for around 30 minutes.

Merriner was okay after a trip to the hospital to receive fluids intravenously. Unfortunately, since Merriner didn’t cross the finish line under his own power, his individual race time was disqualified.

Despite losing those points, the Grace Christian Grizzlies ended up winning the state championship team title by two points.

Merriner, a sophomore at Grace Christian, said that the experience was a little embarrassing but it taught him a lesson he isn’t soon to forget.

“Geremu modeled what a captain and an older teammate should act like, and so in that sense, it has showed me what I can be and should be when I’m an upperclassman,” said Merriner.

As for Daggett, that is not how he imagined his final race in his high school cross-country career — but in the end, it helped strengthen the bond between the two teammates and friends.

“I wouldn’t change one bit of it,” Daggett said. “God has a plan, and he had me there and I am thankful that I could help him.”