Jacoby: MHSAA State Finals help run the true meaning of sports across the finish line

Our local teams celebrated some outstanding performances on Friday at the Division 1 and 2 MHSAA Cross Country State Finals at Michigan International Speedway. The Pioneer girls’ team, for example, finished first overall with an amazing race to the finish line.

While there were champions crowned and best times recorded, a few other moments stood out beyond the trophies, medals and numbers on a stopwatch.

Ever wonder why sports matter? Here are two answers – in pictures!!!

The Kindness of Others

Here is an amazing “Storey” that has happened before at this event but highlights the importance of sports, how athletic competition builds character, and how competing in athletics creates images of courage and sportsmanship and why sports do matter.

This is for all the folks who thought “it’s only sports” was enough of a reason to cancel the high school fall sports season.

In the Division 2 race on Friday, Sarah Storey crumbled to the ground about 25 yards from the finish line. The junior runner from Remus Chippewa Hills managed to get to her knees but that was as far as she was going to get. She looked up and could see the finish line but couldn’t see herself ever getting there.

Maggie Duba came running up behind Storey. Duba, a junior from Grand Rapids West Catholic, was sprinting toward the finish line trying to get there as fast as she could. Then she somehow saw a much bigger purpose than some numbers on a stopwatch so she stopped. I mean she STOPPED! In a cross country state final, 25 yards from the finish line, this runner STOPPED.

Runners, who were a good 10 yards behind Duba just seconds earlier, went racing by her. Didn’t matter. The clock in front of her kept ticking away under the bright sun. Didn’t matter. What mattered the most at that moment for Duba was a runner she more than likely had never met was suffering great pain, both physically and emotionally.

Duba wasn’t an angel sent from above; she was a runner sent from behind. But it was pretty much the same thing at this moment.

Duba reached out her arm and convinced Storey to take it. She talked Storey into getting up. Finding her legs. Finding some last breath of strength to get 25 yards further down a stretch of grass. Because it mattered. And it mattered to both Storey and Duba that Storey crossed that line.

Duba crossed the finish line in 20:43.32, which landed her in 93rd place. A few ticks later, Storey crossed all by herself with her new friend by her side.

Why did she stop?

Simple, really. Like every athlete at MIS on Friday, Duba trained extremely hard to get to these state finals. She logged a lot of hours and sacrificed quite a bit to get to that starting line. She knew that her fallen “friend” had worked equally as hard with the same dream of getting to that finish line. She put herself in Storey’s running shoes and decided to stop so another athlete could continue.

What does a few seconds and a few places really matter in the end. What really matters is that Duba realized what really matters. And why sports matter.

“We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening,” Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham in Field of Dreams.

Finding the Strength

Midland Dow finished in 24th place out of 27 teams in the standings of the Division 1 race on Friday. But it wasn’t because they didn’t try. And no one exemplified that more than Sydney Thompson.

Thompson, only a sophomore, finished 244th in the Division 1 race with the key word being finished. Because it took every ounce of energy, every bead of sweat, every single thing she had left in the tank, to pick herself up and literally crawl across that finish line at MIS.

Her time was 22:45.3 but that didn’t really matter. All that mattered to her was to find a way across that white line spray painted on the grass under the banner that read Cross Country Championships.

She had a fantastic season and deserved to be there. She was 18th in their league meet and 15th at Regionals which brought her to Brooklyn on Saturday.

Thompson used her legs for the first three-plus miles on Friday. She used her hands and knees (and heart and soul) to go the final 10 yards.

STATE CHAMPIONS! Pioneer girls run to D-1 cross country title (see WLAA photo gallery)