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Deserved to Finish

November 25, 2014
“It reminded me of why I love coaching in the NAIA. It reminded me of what we try to represent with character.”

By Angela Crawford
Manager of Marketing and Communications

Photo by Robert Lopez

LAWRENCE, Kan. – As runners in the 2014 NAIA Men’s Cross Country 8-kilometer National Championship race neared the finish line, Cameron Woodberry of Wayland Baptist (Texas) collapsed.

“My legs just shut down,” Woodberry, a sophomore, said. “I was struggling. I got close [to the finish line], and I fell once, but got back up. Before I could fall again, another athlete came up behind me and grabbed me. We almost fell and out of nowhere a second runner grabbed my other shoulder, and both of them helped me across the line.”

Woodberry said he wanted to ask who the two runners were so he could thank them, but was immediately carried to the training tent for medical attention. The Pioneers’ cross country coach, Brian Whitlock, did know that the first runner who stopped and helped Woodberry was senior Tyler Hartley from Mount Mercy (Iowa).

“I wanted to help [Woodberry], but I knew I couldn’t touch him,” Whitlock said. “I got teary-eyed because it was a pretty special moment. I ran to the finish line and shook Tyler’s hand and thanked him. His response was, ‘No problem. He deserved to finish.’”

The second runner to stop and help Woodberry was junior Adrian Castillo from Embry-Riddle (Ariz.). Castillo’s coach, Chris Bray, said he wasn’t surprised to see Castillo helping the runner across the finish line. He also said it wasn’t the first time this year that Castillo helped another runner during a meet.

“Adrian was injured, so he was helping direct traffic during a race,” Bray said. “A girl went down and stopped breathing. He administered rescue breathing and saved her life.”

Castillo is an Eagle Scout and Air Force cadet, so his training to help others kicked in both times. Still, Woodberry recognizes that when athletes are competing at a collegiate national championship, they have a strong chance to run a personal best, so stopping just short of the finish line to help someone else is a big deal.

“If you have the skills and you have the ability, I feel it’s your duty to help people,” Castillo said. “It just comes down to who you care about more: yourself or other people.”

Woodberry and Whitlock were both surprised that runners would stop to help another runner.

“It reminded me of why I love coaching in the NAIA,” Whitlock said. “It reminded me of what we try to represent with character.”