CINCINNATI — A western Ohio high school runner who helped a struggling competitor finish their race is being praised for her sportsmanship and trying to cope with the attention it has sparked.
Meghan Vogel appreciates the accolades but said Tuesday she is a bit overwhelmed by the praise that has been pouring in since Saturday’s state track meet in Columbus.
The 17-year-old West Liberty-Salem junior was in last place in the 3,200 as she caught up to Arlington High School sophomore Arden McMath, whose body was giving out. Instead of zipping past McMath to avoid finishing last, Vogel put McMath’s arm around her shoulders, half-dragging and half-carrying her about 30 meters to the finish line.
Vogel, who pushed McMath over the line before crossing it, has been getting Facebook and Twitter messages and mail from friends and strangers saying she has inspired them with her sportsmanship.
“It’s an honor and very humbling,” Vogel said. “I just thought I was doing the right thing, and I think others would have done the same.”
But McMath, 16, of Findlay, said she’s not so sure.
“I really don’t think just everyone would have done that,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe what she did — especially pushing me in front of her — and I’m so grateful.”
Both girls are a bit hazy about the details.
“The last thing I remember was seeing Arden fall and then trying to get her to the finish line,” Vogel said.
McMath remembered feeling like she was “blacking in and out” and falling a few times before Vogel helped her.
Vogel, who had won the 1,600 earlier, said she was emotional and tired from that when she began the longer race.
She also felt “a little woozy” afterward and found herself next to McMath in the training room, where the Arlington student was being treated. McMath said her sodium levels apparently were low, but she has recovered.
Vogel’s mother, Ann Vogel, is West Liberty-Salem’s track coach. Technically, both runners should have been disqualified, but the official decided not to make that call, she said. Neither runner scored any points, so team standings weren’t affected. McMath finished 14th, and Meghan Vogel finished 15th.
Ann Vogel said she’s very proud of her daughter, and the response has been amazing.
“People were coming up to us in tears and hugging both of us after the race,” Ann Vogel said.
She said she was surprised by some negative comments on the Internet and talk radio criticizing her daughter for a lack of competitiveness.
“I can’t believe people would twist an act of kindness like that,” she said.
The girls said they hope to stay in touch and expect the public attention to die down.
“It’s been nice, but it also will be nice to get back to normal,” Meghan Vogel said.