Zachary Hougland, 17, a senior at Davis County High School in Iowa, had just come in first place in his cross-country track meet, making him the district champion and the first person from his school to ever earn the title. That should have been the happy end to this story, but strangely, it was only the beginning.
Just after Hougland crossed the finish line, he noticed a member of the rival team collapse to the ground, his coach told ABC News. Hougland reacted quickly, reaching out to help the runner up and leading him to the finish line so that he could finish the race on his own. It was an act of great sportsmanship–but shockingly, it had negative repercussions.
Turns out, helping another runner is grounds for disqualification, according to national rules. And despite an outcry from both teams–and from an entire community–and even though it was Hougland’s last chance to qualify for the upcoming state championship, officials decided they had to stand by the rules.
That prompted students at the rival school, including the runner Hougland had helped, to speak out in his defense. The rival school’s girls’ cross-country team even made T-shirts in Hougland’s school colors–maroon and gold–instead of their own colors to show their appreciation.
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Parents: Mediapolis girls team designed this shirt. Very neat. If interested…here is the contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgPosted by Davis County Cross Country on Friday, October 23, 2015
“The back says something like ‘He could’ve celebrated with his teammates, but instead he chose to put his arm around me,'” a parent told ABCNews.
Watch the full story here to see what others are saying on social media about this remarkable story.