CORRECTION: The story has been updated to correct the school name of Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.
NORTHFIELD — With less than 100 yards to the finish line at the state cross country meet, Tierney Winter made a choice.
A junior for the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown/Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Grizzlies, Winter saw a girl fall behind her. Sitting somewhere between 80th and 90th place at the time, Winter decided to go help the girl, Jessica Christoffer of Jackson County Central. Esko’s Kailee Kiminski made the same decision.
“I had no idea where she was from, I didn’t know anything,” Winter said. “She fell, [I] picked her up, ‘Let’s go, hurry!’”
So Winter and Kiminski helped Christoffer to the finish line, even though a race official discouraged it, likely so a trainer could come help instead.
“The guy was like, ‘Leave her alone.’ I just picked her up anyway, and we went off to the finish,” Winter said.
All three runners were disqualified. But all three made it across the finish line.
Winter said she wouldn’t have wanted to be left behind if she were in that position.
“We all work so hard to get here and we want to do great in the race,” she said. “I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be — not that that changed anything. But a girl fell, I wanted to help her up. If I was in her situation, I’d want somebody to help me too.”
Grizzlies coach Kyle Asp said it was just a sudden show of sportsmanship.
“I don’t think you sit there and think, ‘I’m gonna help someone if I see them fall,’” he said. “It’s spontaneous. It can’t be something you think about.
“She knew that she wasn’t in the all-state or the top 10. I think you’re just trying to finish the race at that time — she probably just wanted to help the other girl finish the race. I’m not sure if that was that girl’s first time going to state. You’d hate to go to the state meet and not finish.”
Christoffer is a freshman. Kiminski is a senior. None of the three knew anything about each other before the race, and they left not knowing much more. Winter didn’t get a time at state, but she ended up getting a local TV interview for her show of sportsmanship.
And there were no regrets for Winter, either.
“I’m at state, so I couldn’t be happier,” she said. “I couldn’t leave her there, is what it was. We finished together, instead.”