Letter to the Editor

Remarkable sportsmanship

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Dear Editor,

This past weekend was the GNAC swim meet. There were lots of good young men and women competing there. I feel this story should be told because it is an example of the high quality of some of our young people in this great state.

Jessica Hall is a senior at McCook High school and Mackenzie Porter is a senior at Hastings. These two divers have been competing in this state for several years. They are closely matched and during last year they switched back and forth. One would beat the other one week only to get beat the next time they met. This year however Mackenzie had swept the season. It had been very close each time but Jessica could not quite get the win.

So it was with great joy and small bit of relief, on the McCook side, when Jessica took second place. Ahead of Mackenzie by one point.

As her coach, my joy turned to heartbreak, when after the scores had been announced, the medals had been handed out, and the dive sheets given back to the divers, Jessica came to me with the fact that she had found an error on her sheet, knowing what this would do. Just a small error of 1.75 points. But enough to drop her into third place and put Mackenzie ahead of her once again. I asked the Hastings coach Shelly Mau to please check Mackenzie's sheet for errors so we could be sure of both scores.

She informed Mackenzie and the two competitors sat down together with a calculator and rechecked both sheets. Quite a sight in itself. And when it was over and Jessica's worst fear was recognized, she turned and without hesitation handed her medal to her opponent saying "This is really yours". One act of sportsmanship was then returned by another when Mackenzie lit the place up with a beautiful smile and said "You know, my parents have already gone home and have taken my medal with them. Why don't you just keep this one". Jessica pushed back saying" Because this one really is yours". And with another smile and a look in her eyes that silently said "Maybe", Mackenzie said aloud "Why don't you keep it until I see you at State, and then we can trade". Now sheets are accurate, the record correct, and the memory of these unselfish acts will stay.

In a culture and an environment that is increasingly taunts and trash talk, it is refreshing to see competitors that can see the big picture. Competitors that want their opponent to be at the top of their game. So when I do win, I can say with confidence "Today, I truly was the better one". Not because my opponent fell on his sword, or, it wasn't good, but I got away with it anyway.

It is this depth of character I find very impressive.

I would like to thank the communities of McCook and Hastings and their schools for their support of these young people and their swimming programs.

And to the parents who provide the environment for growth and examples for those athletes to follow.

And a special thanks to the parents of these two remarkable young ladies for their support and encouragement. You can be justifiably proud. And most of all, Thank you, Jessica and Mackenzie. Good luck at State, to you both.

James Brand


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