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story.lead_photo.caption Lutheran: St. Charles runner Noah McMullen (background) falls to the ground near the finish line of the Class 3 boys cross country state championship race Thursday at Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia. Photo by Greg Jackson / News Tribune.

At the time, I really didn't think much of it.

It was Thursday afternoon, and I was standing just off to the side of the finish line of the Class 3 boys cross country state championships at Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia, taking pictures of Jefferson City area runners as they approached the end of the race.

Roughly 20 meters from the finish line, I saw a runner fall to the ground due to exhaustion. That's not uncommon, especially when you factor in the 74-degree temperature at the start of the November race, but the collapse usually happens moments after a runner crosses the finish line, not before.

I didn't recognize who it was, but I later learned the runner was Noah McMullen of Lutheran: St. Charles. He got up, made it another 5 meters, but fell to the ground again. It didn't look like he would make it to the end of the 5,000-meter race.

But along came a Good Samaritan named Nathan Doty of John Burroughs.

As Doty approached the finish line, he saw McMullen was struggling. The two had competed against each other the weekend before at districts, and rather than running straight through the finish line, Doty stopped and tried to assist McMullen, first placing his hand on his back as he got up, then helping him up off the ground as McMullen fell a third time.

With about 5 meters to go, Doty held up McMullen on each side of his waist, helping him avoid falling a fourth time, and the two crossed the finish line together at the 17:30 mark.

Doty lost more than 10 seconds off his final time — and seven spots, from 26th to 33rd place — but to see his act of sportsmanship was uplifting to the crowd gathered near the finish line.

When the race was finished, Lutheran: St. Charles held a two-point advantage ahead of Fatima atop the Class 3 team standings. But it wouldn't stay that way for long.

A race official notified Lutheran: St. Charles that McMullen had been disqualified because he had received assistance across the finish line. The rule comes from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and up until 2017, the runner who assisted the distressed runner would have been disqualified, too.

With McMullen's finish being thrown out, Fatima moved ahead of Lutheran: St. Charles in the final team standings and claimed its third straight state championship.

Within the first few hours after the event transpired, there was a social media uproar, as people were upset to see McMullen was disqualified. The anger was magnified because it also cost Lutheran: St. Charles a state championship.

It's weird how this rule is applied differently in other sports.

In 2008, Western Oregon softball player Sara Tucholsky hit her first career home run — in high school or college — but she had missed first base, and as she returned to touch the bag, she injured her knee, tearing her ACL.

Tucholsky had to crawl back to first base. She wouldn't be able to make it to home plate on her own.

If anyone from Western Oregon were to help Tucholsky around the bases, she would have been called out. But the rules don't exclude members of the other team helping her out.

So Central Washington's Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace picked up Tucholsky and carried her around the bases — lowering her to touch each of the remaining three bases with her left foot — to complete the three-run home run.

"It's a great moment when someone has character to step up and do the right thing at the right time," Western Oregon coach Pam Knox later said in an interview with ESPN.

The gesture by Holtman and Wallace, titled "Great Sportsmanship," won the Best Moment award at the 2008 ESPYs.

I'm not here to argue against a rule, because it's not really my place. I hate to see Lutheran: St. Charles lose a state title this way, but I also won't put an asterisk next to Fatima's name in the record books.

Regardless of the outcome, I saw a powerful moment in sportsmanship. And in a week clouded by turmoil from the presidential election, Doty's unselfishness was quite a sight to see.

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