HUFF WINS NORTH CAROLINA
SPIRIT OF SPORT AWARD
CHAPEL HILL— Jenna Huff of North Stanly High School is the first recipient of the North Carolina Spirit of Sport Award presented by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
The NCHSAA is participating in the “Spirit of Sport Award” program sponsored by the National Federation of State High School Associations. It was established to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of sport that represents the core mission of education-based athletics.
The award is given in recognition of a specific act or an activity of longer duration. Nominees can be a coach, athletic administrator, trainer, student-athlete or any others associated with the school’s athletic program. Huff will be recognized at the NCHSAA Annual Meeting on May 5 at the Smith Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina.
Davis Whitfield, NCHSAA commissioner, said, “Jenna’s act of selflessness defines what the Spirit of Sport Award represents. She did what was uncommon in the eyes of many by turning her focus to aid a competitor. Her act of compassion taught us all a life lesson that day.”
Tommy Harkey, athletic director at North Stanly High School, provided information for the nomination, noting, “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.
Huff, a cross-country runner for North Stanly, was competing at Dan Nicholas Park in the 2010 2-A Midwest Regional for the right to advance to the state championship. Late in the race she was in 22nd place, trailing Deb Gunther of Cuthbertson by about five meters. Suddenly Gunther screamed in pain and grabbed her hip, almost stopping.
Instead of sprinting past Gunther to gain a spot in the standings, Huff slowed down, checked on her and told her, “Come on,” gently putting her hand on Gunther’s elbow.
They shuffled along toward the finish line, and as coach 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.
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.”