COLORADO SPRINGS— An event that occurred during last year's North Carolina High School Athletic Association regional cross country meet has attracted the attention of the United State Olympic Committee.
Jenna Huff of North Stanly High School, for her act of sportsmanship in last year's meet, was named the winner of the NCHSAA Spirit of Sport award last year and was recognized at the Association's Annual Meeting in May. Now she has been recognized by the USOC, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Huff, now a junior, received a national sportsmanship award in Colorado Springs known as named the Jack Kelly Fair Play, named after a former USOC president and Olympic rowing bronze medalist. The award has had previous winners like cycling's Lance Armstrong and track's Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
As reported in the NCHSAA Bulletin last year, Jenna was running for North Stanly at Dan Nicholas Park in the 2-A Midwest Regional for the right to advance to the state championship. Late in the race she is in 22nd place, trailing Deb Gunther of Cuthbertson by about five meters. Suddenly Gunther screams in pain and grabs her hip, almost stopping.
Instead of sprinting past Gunther to gain a spot in the standings, Huff slowed down, checked on her and tells her, "Come on," gently putting her hand on Gunther's elbow.
They shuffled along toward the finish line, and as North Stanly cross country coach Drew Laucher said, "As they approach the finish line, the crowd catches on. Applause and cheers erupt. Jenna puts Deb in front of her, just as it would have been before Deb's hip gave out. Jenna didn't take that point; it was always Deb's so it stayed Deb's."
That in itself is remarkable, but it also had an impact on the meet. It turned out that Cuthbertson and Salisbury tied for first in the regional meet, and ties in cross country means that the performance of the sixth-place finisher is used. Cuthbertson's sixth-place runner: Deb Gunther.
Gunther is now a freshman at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, GA. Huff is continuing to participate in several sports at North Stanly. Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer nominated Jenna for the national honor.