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True Grit
December 3, 2010 5:24 PM   Subscribe

"Holland Reynolds, a star runner from a small private high school in San Francisco, collapsed at the state cross-country meet and crawled across the finish line to clinch the championship for her team." Her coach, Jim Tracy, had been increasingly debilitated by Lou Gehrig's disease during the season, which made her and the team "really want to win it for Jim." The video of the race is here. Holland Reynolds approaches the finish line at 19 minutes 33 seconds into the video.
posted by ferdydurke (40 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I expected to find this post trite and cloying, like a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. That isn't how I found it at all. Thanks.
posted by steambadger at 5:45 PM on December 3, 2010


I'm glad she didn't have an undetected heart condition that could have led to her dying. Oddly, I feel sad that she thought it was so important to finish the race. I'm glad nothing bad happened to her and that she didn't get sick. Because I'd be terrified, crazy worried and extremely upset if my daughter collapsed on the course and still kept pushing herself. I really hope other young men and women aren't compromising their health for meaningless things. I feel terrible every time I hear about a young basketball player or football player dropping dead on the field.
posted by anniecat at 5:47 PM on December 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


I really hope other young men and women aren't compromising their health for meaningless things.

I'm of two minds. If it were my daughter I'd carry her off.

But really, what is important? Maybe this is important to her. Maybe it really matters.
As someone who's done 200 mile bike rides in 100+ heat and finished in a rather stupid state, I'm glad no one stopped me. Because, for reasons I can hardly explain, it matters.
posted by cccorlew at 6:01 PM on December 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I agree with anniecat, but more angrily. This story really pissed me off. I watched the video, to confirm what the coach said in the NYTimes article:

Weaver said that if Reynolds had appeared to be in immediate danger, he would not have let her continue.

SHE. WAS. IN. IMMEDIATE. DANGER. Runners can die of shock in circumstances like this, even when they have no other medical conditions.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:06 PM on December 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


I hate to be cynical. Really, I do. But the whole dedicated-athlete-crawls-across-the-finish-line thing has kinda been done, you know?
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:12 PM on December 3, 2010


Fit runners not in medical danger collapse near the end of marathons, not 5Ks. The official that told her she could continue is insane. I have a hard time believing someone who couldn't even remember falling was giving informed consent at the time.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:28 PM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


MrMoonPie: "But the whole dedicated-athlete-crawls-across-the-finish-line thing has kinda been done, you know?"

But not by her. And not for this coach, and not for this team.

I watched the video. She was down for 8 seconds and crawled for 11 seconds, covering what looked like less than 5 to the finish line. The assistant coach was at her side within 3 seconds, talking with her. It was a judgement call but as judgement calls go, I think it was inside the sanity line. The delay to getting her in an ambulance was under a minute.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:28 PM on December 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't know why I'm still shocked at the Scared Mommy/Helicopter Daddy attitude here at Metafilter.

Athletics is about pushing yourself to limits to achieve the edge of what you are capable of doing. Sometimes you go to far and you learn your limits. Ms. Reynolds pushed herself and succeeded in her goal. An admirable achievement.

Would you worry worts not have young people push themselves to achieve?

Perhaps you side with Diana Moon Glampers...
posted by Argyle at 6:39 PM on December 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


When my children collapse from exhaustion, I tell them to keep picking up their toys. It's just good parenting that builds character. And by that I mean "holy christ is this country messed up if it thinks destroying the body of a teen is a good trade for winning a race".
posted by DU at 6:41 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


So who gets the movie rights in this situation?
posted by Bort at 6:44 PM on December 3, 2010


SHE. WAS. IN. IMMEDIATE. DANGER. Runners can die of shock in circumstances like this, even when they have no other medical conditions.

BULL. SHIT. Her ATP gave out because she didn't properly estimate what she had left and pushed herself too hard. If she was in real danger she would have collapsed and been unresponsive. She's a high school student and the only danger is from an undiagnosed heart ailment. And if she had one and collapsed, she'd be more-or-less dead before she hit the ground.

Do you think that the assistant coach encouraging her to finish was completely ignorant? Granted, he knows less about the subject than you because you're on the Internet, but he was actually there.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:45 PM on December 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


The Nike swoosh on top of the video really seals the moment.
posted by Nelson at 6:46 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't hate to be cynical and the "crawl across" was not that great as crawl acrosses go. She only fell once and was like 10 feet away from the finish line when she did fall.

Nothing will every top Julie Moss.

Except possibly Sian Welch and Wendy Ingram because it was two of them at the same time.
posted by nooneyouknow at 6:48 PM on December 3, 2010


Sometimes you go to far and you learn your limits. can sometimes die or damage your body permanently.

Having watched the video, I do agree that it wasn't very far to crawl, nor for a very long time. But this is a dangerous, destructive attitude that literally has resulted in the deaths of runners.

If you collapse playing sport, you need immediate medical attention and you should stop exerting yourself immediately. Collapsing on a 5km course is almost astonishing, and pretty serious shit.
posted by smoke at 7:05 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you collapse playing sport, you need immediate medical attention and you should stop exerting yourself immediately.

This is silly. I can't imagine that you every seriously engaged in sports or watched them. IT's so common, we have a term for it, 'bonking'. When you literally run out of energy and your body says "I need to stop doing this". It's not life threatening and it's fairly common.

Are you seriously advocating that because a few individuals are at risk, all individuals should avoid the behavior? The risk people take in getting in a car and driving of death is orders of magnitude greater than the risk of dying due to physical exertion. Yet people get in cars by the millions everyday.

Your sense of proportion and grasp of the actual risks of athletics is way out of line with reality.
posted by Argyle at 7:14 PM on December 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


If you're interested, a group of alums have put together a site for and about coach Jim Tracy. Jim has been the cross country coach at UHS for 14 years. This meet not only clinched the championship for the team, it was the team's 8th state championship, making it the most successful cross country program in the history of the state of California. Whether it was safe or advisable for Reynolds to keep going, I cannot say, but it is clear that the team would not have won the championship if she didn't finish. Talk about pressure!

Reynolds and Tracy didGood Morning America this morning too. Also, the school has formed a special needs trust to help Jim as his condition worsens, donations are welcome!

I'll add that I'm an alumnus of the high school in question, though I never ran cross country. It's a pretty darn competitive school both academically and athletically, one that pushes students quite strongly. It's telling that this all happened in such a competitive environment. To me, this incident both demonstrates the power of competition to achieve the impossible, and provides quite the example as to the danger and/or meaningless of hyper-competitiveness in high school at the expense of all else. To be perfectly honest, one of my first thoughts upon seeing the video was "damn, she's got one heck of a college admissions essay topic now!" Cynical to be sure, but that doesn't stop it from being true.
posted by zachlipton at 7:14 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Given that I'm an old old lady who can run a 5K without falling down, yeah--I'd worry about a kid who's been leading her cross-country team for a couple years who can't manage it.

I found this story not at all heartwarming for that reason.
posted by padraigin at 7:16 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine that you every seriously engaged in sports or watched them.

Thanks for the insults, and the great imagineering of me and my interests. Are there any other aspects of my character you would like to infer from one sentence on the internet?

For what's it's worth I run somewhere between one and two thousand kilometres every year, both competitively and casually.
posted by smoke at 7:22 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


All that we do eventually fades into oblivion; all human action is equally meaningless. Everyone finds meaning where they find it, you cannot judge what is meaningful for someone else. It's the height of ugly conceit to do so.
posted by oddman at 7:26 PM on December 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


I wonder if the 36 girls who beat her are reading that NYT story and being like, "But wait, I didn't even fall down though"
posted by Greg Nog at 7:29 PM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


yeah--I'd worry about a kid who's been leading her cross-country team for a couple years who can't manage it.

She can manage it. She could probably manage a 5K every day at a reasonable pace. She just pushed herself extra-hard in this particular race and collapsed. She'll be OK.
posted by rocket88 at 7:32 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, former XC runner here. There's a huge different between being able to run 5K and running 5K as hard as you can. In this case, harder than you can. The difference between jogging 5K and being someone who expects to place in the top 10 at a regional HS XC championship is about as great as the different between someone who goes wading the in the water and someone who swims in the open sea.

I had teammates who regularly collapsed at the end of competitive 100m sprints, never mind distance runs.
posted by zippy at 7:49 PM on December 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


She can manage it. She could probably manage a 5K every day at a reasonable pace. She just pushed herself extra-hard in this particular race and collapsed. She'll be OK.

Yeah, okay, but then it's a story in the New York Times why?

I mean seriously, it's probably more impressive that I can do it at all without falling down, than it is that a fifteen year old can't this one time but can most every other time she tries.

To be clear, I am one hundred percent aiming my what-the-fuck at the New York Times here. It is very sad that the coach is ill, it is very sweet that his team is supportive, but there is no THERE there, with this story.
posted by padraigin at 7:54 PM on December 3, 2010


I should have more sympathy for this coach than most, having been my mother's caretaker as she slowly died from ALS. But this "win one for the Gipper" attitude sickens me. There is nothing laudable about someone being carried away in an ambulance and pushed IV fluids, just for the Gipper. This is how people push themselves right over the edge, permanently.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:39 PM on December 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the insults, and the great imagineering of me and my interests. Are there any other aspects of my character you would like to infer from one sentence on the internet?

If you consider my remark as a serious insult, you have much to learn about insults as well.

Of course, you don't address the point I made.
posted by Argyle at 9:09 PM on December 3, 2010


I thought it was a noble act. How many people live their entire lives without ever having the chance to push themselves like this?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:14 PM on December 3, 2010


This girl has done something she can be very, very proud of. Her coaching and parenting may be as suspect as you want to think - but ultimately she and she alone drove herself, and her achievement is very impressive.

I can guarantee you, when the vast majority of coaches or trainers see something like this, they are absolutely concerned first for the health of the athlete, and the hell with everything else. The small minority who aren't, are sociopaths beyond redemption or reason. They exist, but they are not the rule, thank God.

I know people who have died running. Literally run themselves to death. Another friend had an aneurysm running during a competition. It can happen. You pray it doesn't, and running coaches should be teaching players to recognize their limits, not just push themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes you get into the red zone just to finish, and the outcome is uncertain.

A life without risk, to many, is not a life worth living. Some people take unnecessary risks, and where that line is is different for everyone.
posted by Xoebe at 9:23 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


It might be helpful to keep in mind that the coach's decision to let her cross the finish line had no negative impact on her health.

I regularly feel a sense of detachment from my own life. I don't know myself or my limits. I live in a world where nothing has any meaning except what I chose to give meaning, and since I know that, how can I fool myself into thinking that anything is meaningful? It's a vicious, shitty cycle.

This runner's moment of personal truth and focus is a precious thing for her, and it should be celebrated as such even if you personally didn't get much from it.
posted by jsturgill at 9:29 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really hope other young men and women aren't compromising their health for meaningless things...

It's not meaningless. There is something built-in to the human being, something incredibly powerful and self-sacrificing to the larger group. Many times this expresses itself in martial prowess... and indeed, in classical times, the city-states of Greece and pre-Roman Italy were eternal enemies, wasting their best and brightest on the battlefield to show who's best this year, and be at it again next year.

When the Yankees meet the Red Sox, this is a ritual. It is a mock-war, waged by the most powerful humans either side can muster, and victory brings about something primal in its satisfaction. Once decided, the forces that move us, one tribe against another, are sated and abeyed, wounds are licked, and next season contemplated.

The same at a track meet - in a competition, the athlete isn't just competing to prove something to herself, she is a combatant in a mock war. Defeat or victory, in the human psyche, at that moment, is most assuredly a life-or-death matter... yet death would be a massively unsatisfactory outcome.

Modern sport is noble and to be respected, because it is war that respects and honors life, and ties communities together rather than burns them to the ground. (Offer not valid in Detroit.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:29 PM on December 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


If this were my daughter I would be proud as hell. I fondly remember one formative experience climbing in Alaska, carrying three days food four days fuel (for melting snow for water) we ended up out for six days. Had to ski eight miles back to basecamp after a harrowing descent, we could ski about 5 yards before collapsing. Took us twelve exhausting hours to get back.

My point? She'll remember those 10 feet for the rest of her life. Most people don't get to experience what it's like to push themselves when they think they have nothing left. It's transformational.
posted by alpinist at 10:03 PM on December 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


smoke: For what's it's worth I run somewhere between one and two thousand kilometres every year, both competitively and casually
I also run between one and two thousand K every year, both competitively and casually. Well, really it's closer to "one" than "two thousand".
posted by hincandenza at 12:00 AM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not meaningless.

And The Gipper still dies anyway.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:17 AM on December 4, 2010


The last thing he said to me, "Doc," he said, "some time when the crew is up against it, and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to get out there and give it all they got and win just one for the Zipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Doc," he said, "but I won't smell too good, that's for sure."
posted by Gungho at 7:58 AM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I saw this and thought it was awesome. As a sportswriter, I covered high school track and cross country for almost a decade and saw stuff like this a lot. I got to go to the FHSAA (Florida high schools) state XC final for Jenny Barringer's senior year (though not, unfortunately, for her 16:55 state record junior year) when she won the state title in 17:08. She breezed in laughing, almost a full minute before the second place runner. Race officials handed her a microphone and she was able to talk. She was an amazing runner.

But the awesome part of the race came right after that. I saw at least five girls finish a race more intense than any they'd ever run. Five or more girls who, as soon as their front foot hit the timing mat, immediately collapsed into a limp, leaky pile, only to be dragged (really dragged - two guys get you under the armpits and start running and the toes of your shoes cut trails in the dirt - so you're not a dangerous obstacle at the finish line) off to the med tent and rehydrated. Chasing Jenny Barringer made them run the race of their lives, and they did it with gusto.

Serious human athletes aren't horses or dogs, drugged by their trainers and sent out with the clanging of a bell. They run themselves to almost the same state of exhaustion in practice - at least they do if they want to be great. Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley once reflected on his basketball career at Princeton and the New York Knicks, saying something like "If you're not on the brink of collapse *every time you practice*, you're never going to get any better." (paraphrase)

Go to a high school cross country meet sometime and listen to the kids trade war stories afterwards. They talk about puking and collapsing with the same wistful nostalgia that other people use to describe great fishing trips or movies. To them, it means they tested their bodies and minds, and they won.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:04 AM on December 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


And The Gipper still dies anyway.

Yep. So does Rockne, eventually, and Reagan and Pat O'Brien. So will you, some day, and so will I. If the purpose of life is not to die, then we're all screwed, aren't we?
posted by steambadger at 9:09 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


My recent experiences in 'athletics' have led me to consider some athletics to be performance art. And why not? You do beautiful and difficult things with your body in a condition that can heighten emotional response and lead to greater intimacy with your self and other people. That's cool.
posted by entropone at 11:05 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Her coaching and parenting may be as suspect as you want to think - but ultimately she and she alone drove herself...." (Xoebe)

I remember hearing or reading something apropos this last(?) year - some group arguing that coaches (and parents, in part) were not infrequently pushing young athletes to the point where they were doing long-term harm to themselves. (Can't find a direct link, but here's something related.) We're talking about kids, who (a) are still growing, and thus stresses on their bodies have longer-term consequences, and who (b) are more susceptible to pressure from authority figures in their lives, like coaches. I'm not arguing that it somehow wasn't the girl's own decision to keep running, and I don't want to diminish her accomplishment or the perhaps noble sentiments behind her drive. Yet, I think that when kids/teenagers in organized sports push themselves to the point where they may be harming their health, we should be concerned about the circumstances in which they make those decisions, and about the possibility of undue pressure to compete being exerted on them.

"My point? She'll remember those 10 feet for the rest of her life. Most people don't get to experience what it's like to push themselves when they think they have nothing left. It's transformational." (alpinist)

Didn't you read the article? She doesn't remember those 10 feet. That maybe won't be so transformational for her, in that particular instance. I can see the appeal of an extreme physical challenge (as in, something beyond merely challenging yourself past your comfort zone), and how that could be a significant experience - however, I think there's a big difference between an adult challenging themself to the extreme edge of their physical ability versus a teenager or other youth doing so.
posted by eviemath at 5:43 PM on December 4, 2010


Didn't you read the article? She doesn't remember those 10 feet.

"Reynolds said she did not remember collapsing but did remember crawling ..."
posted by zippy at 11:07 PM on December 4, 2010


"Reynolds said she did not remember collapsing but did remember crawling ..."

And the coach said he was sure she was fully conscious so her health was not at risk and he did not need to intervene.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:19 AM on December 5, 2010


you know, most days I don't remember how I got home. I know I got in my car and started off, yet somehow, seemingly moments later, I'm in my driveway and damned if I know how it happened.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:58 AM on December 5, 2010


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