Sacha Watson-Deegan and Wilma Heitmann received a Did Not Finish in a recent cross-country race, but it wasn’t because they failed to cross the finish line.
The Grade 10 Belmont Secondary students stopped to help a fellow runner who was in medical distress.
It all started on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 4 p.m. The girls started in a somewhat hectic fashion after missing a bus and arriving at Cedar Hill Park minutes before the race kicked off against dozens of runners from across the Sooke School District for the third race of the season.
About halfway through the 3.6 kilometre race, Wilma, who is a German exchange student, noticed a fellow runner who was walking slowly. When Wilma locked eyes with the runner, she started to cry.
“I asked her if she was okay and she said no, so I stayed with her,” Wilma said. “I saw that she didn’t feel good and I just couldn’t run away.”
A few minutes later, Sacha came running along and stopped to help as well. The runner couldn’t breathe, so Sacha and Wilma carried her to a nearby bench so she could lie down. Other runners, who stopped to see what was happening, ran ahead to tell a teacher what had happened.
The girls stayed by her side for about 20 minutes before help arrived. Even then, Sacha and Wilma carried the girl to a nearby road so a school bus could come and pick her up.
Despite the incident, the girls still finished the race — 45 minutes after everyone else had already packed up and left. The next day, the duo emailed the teacher to see how she was doing, and found out the runner had low blood sugar levels and was in need of a boost at the time.
While their efforts are being applauded, Sacha and Wilma don’t believe they did anything out of the ordinary.
“At the end of the day it’s just a race, what matters is that people are okay,” said Sacha, who moved to the West Shore from Ireland over the summer. “A lot of people have been saying ‘oh that’s so amazing of you,’ but we just stopped because it seemed like the right thing to do.”