December 2, 2010

"All I knew was that I had to cross the line."

A 16-year-old runner collapses, then crawls to the finish line. "It took over 20 seconds for her to crawl two yards."

I was touched by this story. (There's also an angle about the coach having Lou Gehrig's disease, and her team won the state championship only because she finished.) But I wonder if officials should allow a kid who's collapsed to keep going.
[A]n assistant coach... said that if [Holland] Reynolds had appeared to be in immediate danger, he would not have let her continue. “I would have picked her up and carried her straight to the ambulance,” he said. “But she was able to make eye contact with me. Her body was tired, but she was mentally all there.”
Is that medically right? If a kid collapses playing sports but makes eye contact, she's not in immediate danger?

Check the video. The breakdown begins at 19:30. Should this be celebrated in the national press, or should we worry that encouraging kids to this point risks death or serious injury?


Scott M said...

I was told, recently, by a two tour Iraq vet that there's no such thing as real heroics in sports. I believe some of our more crusty commentators here have said something similar.

This story illustrates why they are wrong and, thankfully, validates the gut reaction I had at being told athletes cannot be real heroes.

John Lynch said...

Someone one year older can join the armed forces.

mccullough said...

True grit.

blake said...

Shouldn't this be a decision between the parents and child?

Pete the Streak said...

What a gutty effort.

I think the coach may be engaging in a bit of CYA. I'm having a tough time seeing where she made eye contact with anyone after she dropped.

Seven Machos said...

Virtually this same thing happened to a guy on my cross country team and two weeks later almost to me.

As for me, I was running in a sectional meet after an injured knee kept me out of practice most of the week. I had to finish in the top 25 to go to state. The last mile was really woozy but not painful. I was just kind of out of it. In the chute, about two steps after the finish line, I collapsed and I remember not being real sure where I was but people attending to me.

I wouldn't call it heroic what happened to me.

traditionalguy said...

That video brings back memories. She hit the runners wall. The pain of cross country brings out people's will never to quit. Everytime you hit that wall, it gets easier next time. The human organism adapts to real pain by making rather quick internal changes to be ready for the next time. It looks here like the chickification of Cross Country has been successful...could Rush Limbaugh run that race, or half of that race?

HKatz said...

Should this be celebrated in the national press, or should we worry that encouraging kids to this point risks death or serious injury?

It's a tough call - but I think there are always going to be athletes like that who push themselves to the limit, because that's what they expect from themselves and what they want to give to their team. This video I don't think will change that one way or another.

Remember Kerri Strug in the 1996 Olympics doing that final vault on an injured ankle, landing perfectly with a smile, and then not being able to stand anymore. She did it to earn her team the gold. A much more high-profile example (and granted Strug wasn't a child at the time, but still, she was a teen).

Bob Ellison said...

I had a similar experience in high school. Somehow I ran faster in a 3.2-mile cross-country race than I ever had before. I was bizarrely holding first place. I'll never forget what happened when I passed Jeff, my faster teammate. He asked, "What are you doing up here?" I said, "I don't know!" And he said, "Well, go, man, go!"

Alas, like this young woman, I stopped short of the finish line, probably fifty yards short. And I vomited profusely. About seven guys passed me.

Nobody helped me, and I'm glad they didn't. I tested my limit, and found it. But I crossed the line by myself, stinkily.

jamboree said...

I vote for celebrating it. It would bother her for a LONG time to come so close and not make it because of shin splints or whatever. If they forced touch she would be disqualified.

Synova said...

My daughter might not have (probably wouldn't have) stayed with boxing anyway, but it turns out she gets bloody noses easy. There is not a single *medical* reason that the amount of blood involved was an issue, but it looked horrific and her second match the ref stopped the fight.

Some things, like boxing or endurance sports, are dangerous, but the danger doesn't necessarily correlate with what is most visually alarming.

Bob_R said...

Looks OK to me. Good effort. She was under close observation, moving on her own, and there was no indication of an "unusual" situation like a heart attack. This is not something terribly unusual in distance running.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Her body was tired, but she was mentally all there.”
Is that medically right?"

Let's see ... this mental health diagnosis was from the assistant girl's track coach.

Do you know how many times you have to fail at life until you end up as the assistant girls track coach at a small high school in Podunk, CA?

You have to fail at almost EVERYTHING else.

I axe you: Is the assistant girls track coach at Podunk Fucking High qualified to make life and death mental health judgements about the of a student who has collapsed on the track and is whose body has physically stopped working?

The coach, the assistant coach and the athlatic director should all be fired, along with the reporter, the editor and the publisher of the NY Times.

They're all fucking morons and any parent who keeps their daughter on this track team deserves the funeral they'll certainly soon be planning.

This is one of those "the kid did it for the heroic unionized teacher aren't they special" kinds of pap stories you often see in the NY Times.

The headline says it all: "Runner Crawls to Finish to Win Title for Her Ailing Coach"

NY Times to Dying Runner: Drop Dead
NY Times to Teachers Union Member: You're the real hero of this amazing story.

Their entire outlook on everything is fucked up beyond all comprehension. It's so fucked up they can't even see it.

Bob Ellison said...

New Hussein, remind me to vote for you to replace Bloomberg as NYC mayor.

Seven Machos said...

Ham -- this kind of thing is pretty common at cross country races. Or are you being a troll again?

We've seen at least five separate incidences in 13 comments here.

Triangle Man said...

Since the outcome is known, the question of whether the coach made the right decision is settled.

Cato Renasci said...

The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eaton - apocryphal Arthur Wellesley, but the notion is true enough if (and only if) sport is taken seriously and the possibility of injury, even death, accepted.

dbp said...

Our team's assistant girl's coach was also high school's physics and calculus teacher.

An excellent teacher and coach--he also helped coach the boy's team.

James said...

As my old coach used to say, if you aren't puking or pissing on yourself you aren't really trying.

As already pointed out, this is quite common in high school XC events.

Should a coach tell this girl she shouldn't finish?

Or this one?

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"We've seen at least five separate incidences in 13 comments here."

Keep counting, dude.

At the end of the night, I want an accurate tally out of you.

Paul Snively said...

Am I the only one who leapt immediately to Stephen King/Richard Bachman's The Long Walk?

edutcher said...

When you collapse, eye contact or not, your body is saying, "Stop. Don't do this anymore if you don't want to really hurt yourself".

That old wheeze about death is Nature's way of telling you to slow down is the next step.

exhelodrvr1 said...

I think they should have stopped her. Not worth the risk. (I run, have also run a couple of marathons, and have three children who ran cross country and track in high school.)

mark said...

New Hussein, obviously you dont know what the hell your talking about. First of all, your comments about the assistant coach are not true. The school he coaches is in San Francisco, and ranked top 50 best schools in the U.S. The cross country team that he coaches is the most successful and most higly decorated team in California, with 8 state championships out of the last 17

Hal Dall, MD said...

Similar stories abound in distance running, but the rules of high school team sports would require the ref to halt the contest and take the player out of the game (I'm a soccer ref). I do not know what the rules are for the officials in XC.

Seven Machos said...

Well, Hal, good luck stopping a three-mile long race.

Matt said...

Ann, how can this not be celebrated? For starters, you can't "encourage" this kind of effort. A person has it inside or doesn't to drive themselves that hard. That is all internal. How can you watch this and not admire that strength of will? Having the background story makes it a better story. Love and loyalty for coaches and teammates, desire, drive, dedication and more. Do you doubt she will be a success in whatever or wherever her life leads? This is what school and growing up should be. Finding your boundaries, winning, losing, etc. All the greatest lessons of my life have involved risk, loss, and occasionally even victory. If you try to protect kids from everything they learn nothing of life. Life is risk.

traditionalguy said...

The sport of cross country is designed to make runners hit the body shut down wall, and then hit it a little later on next time. It is like golf in that the runner is testing herself against her own time on the course, Other runners on the course and scores kept for team trophies are thrown in for appearances sake. So let her run the sport she chose to test herself with and honor her. New Ham needs to fire himself for jumping into something that is not his business.

Megaera said...

Cripes, I must be older than I thought. No one else remembers the Portugese runner in the Olympics, a female marathoner, staggering her entire final lap in a state of advanced collapse all the way to the finish line? It occasioned much similar heartburning, as I recall, but apparently the protocols haven't changed much, no matter how heartless it all looks. Um, FWIW, she did survive.

Ralph L said...

It looks here like the chickification of Cross Country has been successful
No, it's the jockification of chicks.

James said...

There's also the story of Gaby Andersen-Schiess at the 1984 Olympics.

Seven Machos said...

MadisonMan said...

I bet every person watching that race has seen runners collapse, and didn't really think much of this runner's situation, other than hoping she'd get up and finish. If she's moving -- and not convulsing -- then why not let her finish? If she was in horrible pain, I'm sure she'd let people know.

I'm surprised she wasn't DQed for going outside the orange cones though. I thought that's why they were there.

The Crack Emcee said...

I don't even have to watch the video:


blake said...

Yes, we should celebrate?
Yes, we should worry?
Yes to both?

The Crack Emcee said...


Ken said...

Of course this should be celebrated. How many people bitch out when things get really tough and end up accomplishing jack? Yeah it sucks to push your body to your limit; it sucks being dehydrated; it sucks having all your muscles cramp up on you. It's happened to me and I've seen it happen to everyone with I grew up. Not everyone collapsed like that, but you should push yourself to the breaking point (and sometimes break) occasionally. Otherwise you're not doing it right.

"Do you know how many times you have to fail at life until you end up as the assistant girls track coach at a small high school in Podunk, CA?"

Hussein, you're an elitist prick. I have lived in Nowhere, USA, and very few were failures at almost everything else. There is no disgrace being an assistant track coach anywhere. All assistant coaches I've met do it because they love the sport and have a kid involved in the sport. None of them were assistant coaches because they couldn't do anything else, asshole.

jayne_cobb said...

"I'm surprised she wasn't DQed for going outside the orange cones though. I thought that's why they were there."

I haven't read the article, but if she didn't shorten the distance that she was required to run then most runners don't care.

traditionalguy said...

Reflecting on this tough chick's statement, yes she is telling us what distance running means to a runner: the half way point is a big deal to you, and the last quarter mile is a big thrill seeing that finish line coming and coming knowing that if you don't cross it, then the whole practice week's pain and today's suffering is thrown away.

Pogo said...

Not a big deal. Meh.

Of course that means someone will be sued, so it will be prohibited.

jayne_cobb said...

Having run dozens of races (possibly hundreds) I can say that I have never seen anyone collapse, especially during a 5k (3.1 miles). I've seen people trip, sprain an ankle, and break bones, but I have not seen someone truly just collapse.

The fact of the matter is that a 5k is essentially a sprint for distance runners; if you can't do that then you aren't very good.

That she collapsed suggests that she was actually in quite poor shape for the run.

MadisonMan said...

but I have not seen someone truly just collapse.

I've watched dozens of high school cross-country meets, and I have seen collapses. Usually, it's after the finish line, not just before.

XC can be quite a mental challenge if you're the type of person who magnifies things that go wrong, especially if you've let yourself become dehydrated. And High School kids aren't known for sound judgement when it comes to staying hydrated. I've seen many runners have truly amazingly bad races because they forgot to drink water.

somefeller said...

New "Hussein" Ham says: Do you know how many times you have to fail at life until you end up as the assistant girls track coach at a small high school in Podunk, CA? You have to fail at almost EVERYTHING else.

Everybody listen to Ham, he knows a lot about failing at everything in life. That's pretty much been his life story up to now.

Anyway, as mentioned above, being a successful coach is hardly a form of failure, and intense physical strain is a regular part of athletic competition, including at the high school level. I can remember more than a few dry heaves or dazed staggers on the field from high school football practice.

Conserve Liberty said...


Piss off you obsequious asshole.

There. I said it.

I went to small all-male high school nowhere important - 49 graduates with me. Earned 10 Varsity athletic letters in three sports over four years; League, District and State Honors, played in 3 Championships and won two. I wasn't even good, by our standards.

I graduated 1st Quintile in that class from nowhere important. Cum Laude B.A., M.A. from somewhere important. I was a cheerleader - large, state University NCAA Madness television athletic program cheerleader - at somewhere important.

Many, many times I pushed my body beyond what I thought was its limit. Collapsed in cramps due to salt deprivation; always stayed in the game - always learned and got better - always for the team.

Many, many times I pushed my mind farther than I thought was my intelligence.

Nobody cried for me or worried about me - they MAYBE gave me a curt nod after. It was enough.

I know whereof I speak.

I will contest you any way, anywhere, any time in defense of my coaches, who chose and actively sought their positions. I know for a fact they turned down college offers. I know for a fact one was a professional athlete.

I returned to nowhere important, and I work the way I played.

Some people have it. Others lurk.

Jason said...

No brainer. The coach knows his athletes. If she's still making an effort, let her go. It's her decision.

WV: dyficul. HA!

Mark said...

In a mixed weapon event, in my first match, I turned my ankle so badly one of the judges told me "I could see the bottom of your shoe."

Mixed weapon, so if I sat out, my bouts were automatically forfeit.

I fenced four more bouts, (won one, Odin knows how) and had to have the laces cut off my shoe to get it off afterward.

Was on crutches for a month.

Not battlefield heroics, but that memory has served me well since.

I agree with Ann that any situation is a hard call for those in charge. The thing is, the act of pushing yourself to the limit and seeing what you find there is kind of the point of I'd think.

(I also agree that it doesn't correlate to the battlefield. But then, I think anyone who goes into the military to find their inner hero is an idiot. That is really what sports is for. When it's guns and guts, make sure it's the other guy's guts.)

Skyler said...

traditional guy introduced: Reflecting on this tough chick's statement, . . .

I'm not sure I would call her a tough chick. If she were tough, she wouldn't have collapsed.

My charitable view is that she may have been weakened by illness. I can't seem to find how long the race was, but however long it was, she was either unprepared or she wasn't healthy that day.

I've seen too many Marines on the side of the road on a forced march, rolling around and limbs twitching from heat stroke, to think that this was bravery on her part. I won't fault the coach (nor will I insult him) but I would have done differently.

The reason is that she didn't really finish the race, no matter that she crossed the line. The intent of the race is to run across the line. They may allow crawling, but the intent is to be running. I would have been more concerned for her health than for some false sense of accomplishment at having crawled, barely, over some stupid line.

The Crack Emcee said...

Jesus Christ, you guys, cut the girl some slack:

Prepared or not, she's a kid who did something that mattered to her and I, for one, like it.

Crossing that line, even by crawling, was an accomplishment that surely indicates her values. We should all be proud to see that kind of dedication in an American youngster. What do you want - another Katy Perry wannabe?

Skyler said...

Well, like I implied, the girl is alive and apparently unharmed. The decision by the coach can't be faulted.

But I've seen too many people with serious heat stroke or other injuries and I just don't see any value in pretending that crossing the line in such a disgraceful manner is of any value.

Skyler said...

Crossing that line, even by crawling, was an accomplishment that surely indicates her values.

I'm really surprised at you, Crack. This seems inconsistent with your normal stance on things.

She shouldn't think of collapsing like that as an accomplishment in any way. It is embarrassing, humiliating, and debasing. It shows (unless she was ill) that she was unprepared for the event. She may have pushed herself hard, but she should have pushed herself hard in the weeks and months prior to the race. She failed in the important part, the preparation for the race.

I don't give her much respect at all. All those other girls finished without being so disgraceful.

Equating crawling across the line with an accomplishment seems a lot like the sentiment out of a new-age guru, and not what winning competitors would think.

Seven Machos said...

Skyler -- You are such a fucking idiot. You have no idea what woman's condition was, or what her time was in relation to her previous personal best. It also sounds like you have never pushed yourself to your physical limit, which isn't surprising.

I hope the rest of the military isn't a big bunch of ass clowns like you are. My guess is no. I imagine that your colleagues can't stand you.

Skyler said...

Seven, you should try thinking about what is being said instead of getting all emotional and irrational. I'm thinking you have to call yourself macho because no one else does.

Seven Machos said...

I call myself macho for the same reason you choose to use as your logo a picture of yourself with your wife.

Skyler said...

I'll make an analogy so seven can better understand my point.

I don't remember the names of the parties, but there were two relatively simultaneous treks being made to the south pole in the early days. One was by an English team and the other was Swedish or from Norway.

The English team didn't prepare very well and several died. Their plan involved eating their sled dogs on the return leg. The men suffered severely.

The other team knew how to work in Antarctic conditions. They planned very well. They zipped in and zipped out and there was very little drama.

Some people laud the English team for showing grit and determination. Not me. I think they were fools and they suffered needlessly. The ones to cheer were the men who made it look easy. They were the heroes who brought every one back alive and healthy. And they didn't shoot and eat their dogs.

Skyler said...

Seven. Come make your insults to my face. I'm not a big man, but you would still regret having made them. Coward.

Seven Machos said...

And then Skyler compared a girl running a cross country race to an apocryphal Antarctic expedition.

Truly, the mind reels at this level of ass clownery.

The veiled threat of violence is also a classy touch.

Skyler said...


James said...

I can't seem to find how long the race was, but however long it was, she was either unprepared or she wasn't healthy that day.

A standard high school XC course is 4K/2.6 miles for girls and 5K/3.1 miles for boys. Some states allow girls to run 5K but 4K is the norm.

The story clearly states that it was a 3.1 mile race: "Just before the 3.1-mile race, the team did its regular cheer, then Reynolds, who is the team captain, led a special cheer for Tracy. "

You guys are ruining a simple "feel good" story. We're talking about teenagers here. I've run competitively for years and I've been peripherally involved in high school XC for the past 4 years (my son lettered for 3 of those years). Runners collapsing is not unusual although it tends to happen more after crossing the finish lines or in the chutes.

This was a varsity girls race which means that the runners are better conditioned and are more aware of their bodies. If it were JV I'm sure it would have been handled differently.

You can't infer anything about her conditioning, training, etc. because she didn't finish on her feet. In my neck of the woods, Friday night pasta parties are common so the runners can carb up. The downside is that they tend to get home late and not get enough sleep. Then they have to get up early for a two hour bus ride (away meets). A runner might even skip breakfast because of nerves or lack of time and electrolyte replacement drinks or power bars don't really substitute well for a good breakfast.

Lots of factors can contribute to a runner collapsing and its usually not as simple as concluding that he/she wasn't properly conditioned.

traditionalguy said...

Skyler...She ran so as to win to please her father figure coach holding the stop watch who cared enough about her to include her on a team that won honors. Thank God you were not the coach, because encouragement is 90% of a coach's profession. Finding everything that we can say that she did wrong is another skill set entirely. The runner's prayer is "God help me get from here to there", and no one but that endurance runner actually knows where she is at. Endurance is a basic human character trait that Cross Country teaches us we have in spades, no matter how many critics call us fools to do that to ourselves.

HKatz said...

who cared enough about her to include her on a team that won honors.

The article stated that she was usually the top runner on that team (and had been in track since third grade) - hence her coach's surprise that she wasn't coming in among the top racers to finish. This is not the first time she had run a race like that. I don't think it was lack of physical training that did her in.

The article mentioned her having a cold plus probably being dehydrated. Even if she didn't prepare herself prior to this specific race as well as she could by not drinking enough, she wouldn't let her mistake ruin the chances for the rest of the team. She kept crawling so that she wouldn't hold them back. And they won - good for them.

george said...

Was that it? I used to fall down from exhaustion just playing in the backyard with my buddies when I was a kid. Dehydration is something to worry about but crawling a few feet when you are tired is nothing. She was laying on the ground and had as much time as she wanted to get back up or crawl the rest of the way.

I think this is an interesting case about the war between the motherly and fatherly instincts in our society. All I can say is that a girl this tough could kill a lot of Taliban and we need people who can kill a lot of Taliban.

Skyler said...

Like I said, I won't fault the coach because his decision was blameless in hindsight.

A 5k race is only barely a test of endurance. That's not very far. Like I said, and tradguy concurred is that she was either sick or unprepared.

I'm not a doctor. I react based on my training and experience. I've seen a lot of heat strokes in my day and Marines are taught to take them very seriously. She may not have been suffering from a heat injury but I wouldn't chance it for some silly pretension like claiming that she really finished the race.

Seven Machos said...

She should have planned the race like an Antarctic expedition. Right, Skyler? Like any 17-year-old.

And then she should threaten to beat people up.

Skyler said...

"She should have planned the race like an Antarctic expedition. Right, Skyler? Like any 17-year-old."

Seeing how that is almost the entire point if high school athletics, yes.

Seven Machos said...

The point of high school athletics is to for 15-year-old kids to plan like they are on an Antarctic expedition. Gotcha. You bet, chieftain.

blake said...

Worst veil job ever.

Man, you guys are angry.

Skyler said...

I'm not angry. I'm disgusted at SM's insults. He's clearly a boy who never learned manners.

Seven Machos said...

Me, I'm just pointing out that Skyler is unlikeable and dumb.

Skyler said...

And tossing out pointless insults has earned you friends?

Kirk Parker said...

Having recently assisted at our XC league meet, helping guide runners at the finish chute--on first glance I'd say this is preferable to the several mid-pack girls I observed having enough spare energy to (a) notice who was standing near the finish line, and (b) look over and flash them a smile as they crossed it.

Oh, and MadMan? You could have just ended your statement after "And High School kids aren't known for sound judgement".

MadisonMan said...

I've seen a lot of heat strokes in my day and Marines are taught to take them very seriously. She may not have been suffering from a heat injury but I wouldn't chance it for some silly pretension like claiming that she really finished the race.

Oh fer gawd's sake. Watch the video. Notice the people standing in long pants and jackets, holding umbrellas. This is a 5K race and you're worried about heatstroke in weather that is mid-50s and cloudy?

Skyler said...

I've seen heat stroke in arctic conditions.

Seven Machos said...

I've seen heat stroke in arctic conditions.

Was it during an Antarctic expedition? Were you as totally and completely prepared as you expect 15-year-olds to be for a three-mile race?

traditionalguy said...

IMO tired was not her problem. She went into body shut down which feels like paralysis from a stun gun, but goes away after a few hours. Sometimes it happens; usually when you have been showing off and overdone it.

Lyle said...

I've seen this happen once at a cross-country meet. They guy might have even won the race or came in second or third. He was out front for sure... and over the last 100 yards or so he wobbled his way across the finish line. Then collapsed.

Still don't understand why. Dehydration?

Will said...

Celebrate it! She won a State Championship she will remember for the rest of her life!

James Ouyang said...

Well, the bigger story here is that this is the eighth and possibly last state title for coach Jim Tracy, given his diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) this past June. He is now the most successful cross country high school coach in the state of California.

Holland Reynold's courage and determination to finish the race not just for herself, but for her team and her ailing long-time coach speak volumes and is an epitome of the type of young men and women that have run over the decades under Jim Tracy's instruction.

Hopefully, we can be just as supportive of Jim off the course in his battle against ALS. He will need significant financial support in the coming days. If you want to contribute or just learn more, please visit

Dave said...

We used to understand, even celebrate stuff like this.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson