Each fall, the U.S. Olympic Committee gives a special award to “an athlete, coach, or official in recognition of an outstanding act of fair play and sportsmanship displayed during the past year.” Instead of the usual pro- or college-level recipients, this year the award went to a high school runner from North Carolina named Jenna Huff. The teenager’s actions last year may have caused her to lose a race she could have easily won, but her selflessness touched onlookers and made finding God in a cross country meet a winning moment.
Last October, Jenna’s team competed in a regional championship meet to determine which schools would qualify for a shot at the state championship. From the beginning of the race, Jenna was slightly behind another runner named Deb Guthman. With a hundred yards left to run, Jenna got ready for a final sprint to help her outstrip Deb. As the two girls approached the chute, the crowd erupted into wild cheering. So far the two teams had tied; the first girl to cross the finish line would determine which school went to the state competition.
A mere 50 yards from the finish line, Deb suddenly stopped running and doubled over, clutching her hip. (Doctors would later discover that Deb’s growth plate had popped off her bone, causing pain comparable to breaking a bone.) Instead of sprinting by Deb, Jenna made a split-second decision that stunned onlookers. She stopped, took Deb’s arm, and guided the crying girl forward, encouraging her to complete the race. At the finish line, Jenna pushed Deb one step ahead of her, ensuring that Deb would win.
Although the rules called for both girls to be disqualified, officials decided to let the results stand. Deb’s team would go to state, but Jenna’s would not. However, that day’s race made two former strangers close friends and impacted all who heard of Jenna’s sacrifice.
Deb’s coach, David Malady, said, “I’ve coached track and cross country for 10 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it. You just don’t stop and grab somebody and help them. It’s like an unwritten rule. You just don’t. But Jenna did.” For more of this article, click HERE.
The Christian life is often compared to a race or marathon. Like Deb, we have Someone running beside us, always ready to help us no matter how broken or battered we get. Jenna’s sacrifice reminds us that Jesus gave his life so that he can help us finish our own race well. The drama of that October day proved that people can be finding God in a cross country meet.
To see an interview of Jenna Huff and Deb Guthman on Youtube, watch below:
For more on the story, click HERE.