BY MEG WOCHNICK | THE OLYMPIAN • Published September 25, 2008
–In the end, their times didn't matter. Crossing the finish line suddenly wasn't their No. 1 priority.
to the quick-thinking and sportsmanship of five Capital boys junior varsity cross country runners at Saturday's Fort Steilacoom Invitational, they're considered heroes. And their actions proved to be more powerful than personal-best times or wins.
In the boys junior varsity race at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, Capital sophomores Kyle Rizzieri and Court Schneider-McKinney, juniors Danny Stohr and Aaron Hall and senior Karl Sergojan were having a solid day of racing with one-third of the course still ahead of them.
I saw them at the 2-mile mark, and they were right up there, Capital boys coach Jerry Miller said. Then, they disappeared.
But it was right after that 2-mile mark that the unexpected happened, and their instincts kicked in.
A Clover Park runner had collapsed and fallen a few feet off the course. He was having a seizure. Rizzieri was a few meters ahead of the Clover Park runner, and he turned back as soon as he saw his competitor collapse.
Sergojan was 10 meters behind the runner when it happened and saw him go down face-first.
Within seconds, Rizzieri and Sergojan were joined by Hall, Stohr and Schneider-McKinney.
Their priorities quickly shifted from focusing on the race to concern for the health of the Clover Park runner.
I thought he had gotten stung by a bee, Sergojan said. Then we started screaming for help.
Problem was, no one was helping. It took a good 15-20 seconds before spectators realized what was going on. When Hall, Stohr, and Schneider-McKinney arrived, they asked the fallen runner questions such as his name and what school he's from. His seizure lasted roughly 40 seconds.
He didn't know who he was, or where he was, Stohr said. He was unresponsive for a bit.
In the meantime, Rizzieri and Sergojan ran in separate directions to get someone to call 9-1-1. Luckily, they were at a point in the course where many onlookers were watching the race.
But instead of spectator or race official calling 9-1-1, it was Sergojan who made the call with a stranger's phone.
All while this is happening, more than 150 runners passed by while the Capital runners attended the Clover Park runner during a three- to four-minute span. No one else came to the Clover Park runner's aid - except the five Capital runners until he was helped off by his own coaches about five minutes later.
It was frustrating, but really scary, Rizzieri said. We were screaming, and it's like nothing was coming out.
The five Capital runners did end up finishing the race - albeit several minutes off their original pace. But their attention quickly turned back to the Clover Park runner once they arrived at the finish line. The ambulance still hadn't arrived, so the Capital runners dispersed to help track down the emergency vehicle.
The modest, yet humble runners say it was a good reaction on their part. They realize what they did was pretty much near perfect. They did exactly what they needed to do. And it helped somewhat that they recognized immediately what was going on. Rizzieri, whose father is a nurse, said he is a fan of the Fox television series House.
We reacted quickly, Rizzieri said. The people we asked didn't react at all. I got such an incredible adrenaline rush. (After the race), I wasn't tired at all.
The Capital JV team was expected to place high in the team standings. But afterward, none of that mattered.
This is much better than a win, Miller said. Much better than a win. I was really proud of them.