When Paradise High School (Calif.) cross country runner Gabe Price’s house burnt down, it looked like his chances to qualify for the state championships had also gone up in smoke.
As he began to prepare the morning of the race, his dad, Bo Price, called to tell him to pack up important items and leave for his grandparents’ house, the Chico Enterprise-Record reported.
The Camp Fire has ravaged the city of Paradise and killed at least 48 people, according to WBUR.
The Price family left Paradise while the qualifying race was taking place.
But Paradise athletic director Anne Stearns contacted the California Interscholastic Federation-Northern Section, and the state office allowed Price to run the race, according to the Enterprise-Record.
“I kind of had already come to terms with not running and when I heard that … it was my coach that first told me, he said, ‘Hey, we’re going to get you to state. And here’s a second opportunity.’ I was ecstatic,” Price said to WBUR.
On Saturday, as Price got to the course, he was greeted by a surprise.
His dad had reached out to different people on the Chico High School team, who spread the word that Price was running. A group showed up to cheer him on.
“I thought it was just going to be me duking it out, trying to get a time,” Price told the Enterprise-Record. “When we rolled up and the whole Chico team was standing there, I told my dad, ‘That’s a lot of people. What’s going on dad?’ … It was pretty amazing. It was just a moment, probably one that I’m not going to forget.”
Price ran the race with some Chico High athletes, who set the pace for him. He needed a time of 17:30 to qualify.
He hadn’t run in two days, according to the Enterprise-Record, and the uphill stretch on the second mile tested him. As Price got into the final stretch, the crowd yelled at him to run faster, and he noticed another runner setting the pace, Charlie Giannini, looking at his watch.
It got even more suspenseful when section meet director Scott Fairley didn’t immediately signal if Price had beat the time he needed.
But he had. Price even had time to spare. He finished the race in 17:12.
The state meet will take place on Nov. 24.
Price will have help. A running store, Jogg’n Shoppe, offered him free gear, the Enterprise-Record reported, and the Chico team invited Price to its training sessions.
“I’ve got two weeks to try and do really well at a meet,” Price said to the Enterprise-Record. “After everything that has happened, I’m kind of trying to just take it out on running, and just put in the time, put in the effort … and try and get my mind off everything.”