There are not always enough “good” stories in sports— but here is one that truly represents the essence of high school athletics and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
Tommy Harkey, athletic director at North Stanly High School, says, “This event at the regional cross country meet had spectators clapping, cheering, and crying at the same time.” Drew Laucher, the North Stanly cross-country coach, wrote a story about it for the local paper, The Stanly News and Press, which drew additional attention to it.
Jenna Huff is a runner for North Stanly who was competing 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 slows down, checks on her and tells her, “Come on,” gently putting her hand on Gunther’s elbow.
They shuffle along toward the finish line, and as coach Laucher says, “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.
As Harkey noted, “Jenna could have passed the Cuthbertson runner, but instead made sure she went across the finish line in front of her, which ended up giving Cuthbertson the victory over Salisbury.”
Coach Laucher was right when he said, “Cuthbertson won the regional meet that day. Jenna Huff won the crowd.”
Stories like this may be fairly rare in the world of sports today, but fortunately they are not so rare in the realm of NCHSAA athletics. Our thanks to North Stanly High School and The Stanly News and Press for their accounts, and most especially we salute Jenna Huff of North Stanly High School for exhibiting the values that we hope our sports programs promote.