By Jim Halley, USA TODAY
Meghan Vogel is a little perplexed by all the attention she’s getting these days.
Vogel, a junior distance runner for West Liberty-Salem (West Liberty, Ohio), won the state title Saturday in the 1,600 meters in the Division III girls state meet at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus. But that’s not why she’s getting recognized.
About an hour after winning the 1,600 with a personal best of 4 minutes, 58.31 seconds, Vogel was struggling in the 3,200.
“The first two laps, I felt fine, then I started feeling heavy in the legs,” Vogel said. “I looked over at my mom (Ann), who’s my coach, and I shook my head. I kind of blew my energy in the 1,600.”
Vogel was last, the 15th runner on the track, with about 200 meters to go when she noticed the runner directly in front of her, Arden McMath of Arlington, was struggling.
McMath, a sophomore, fell to the track, got up and began to fall again when Vogel picked her up and carried McMath across the finish line, making sure to keep McMath ahead of her.
“I don’t really remember much about it,” Vogel said. “It was kind of a blur. I just remember picking her up and trying not to injure her as I crossed the line. She deserved to be in front of me.”
While Vogel could have been disqualified for her actions, none of the meet officials said anything as the crowd roared its approval.
In the ensuing days, Vogel said she has had roughly 80 friend requests on Facebook, mostly from people she doesn’t know. Coaches from Akron and Toledo have contacted her, and she did radio and TV interviews with stations as far away as Massachusetts. Tuesday morning, she’ll travel back to Columbus to do a segment with McMath on Fox and Friends.
“I’m really surprised by the reaction,” Vogel said. “I didn’t think it would become national news. I was just helping her out. I know she would do the same for me.”
In her 1,600 victory, Vogel tried to stay with Versailles’ Tammy Berger, then outkicked her in the final lap.
“Tammy has won several state titles, so I knew I would have to run a smart race. The pace was a little faster than I normally go out. I tried to stay just behind her to the point, if I had a decent kick, I could pass her.”
West Liberty-Salem athletics director Jake Vitt, who was at the meet, said he wasn’t surprised by the show of sportsmanship by Vogel, who is in the Top 10 of her class and West Liberty-Salem’s junior class president.
“She has an awesome personality,” Vitt said. “She’s hating the spotlight. It’s funny that what she did is making people overlook that she won the 1,600.”