Teen Athlete Gives Up Race Hopes to Escort Injured Runner Across the Finish Line in Epic Display of Sportsmanship
The trophy may go to the swiftest, but sometimes, the first one to cross the finish line isn’t the only winner. Nowhere was that more true than at a recent 5K invitational in Shelbyville, Indiana.
With less than half a mile to go, Western Boone High School sophomore Levi LaGrange stumbled, twisting his ankle. “I was running up this little rolling hill… and I rolled my ankle and felt something go ‘pop,’” he told the Indy Star.
LaGrange motioned for Sheridan High School senior Axel Aleman to pass him, but in that instant, the race became a secondary concern for Aleman. “I was able to see he was in a lot of pain,” Aleman recalled. “As I got closer to him, he was limping… I asked if he was all right. He said he felt like something snapped.”
Rather than forge ahead, in an extraordinary act of true sportsmanship, Aleman refused to leave LaGrange behind. “As soon as I saw him, I knew I had to do something,” Aleman said. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. That mattered more than the race. I told him I wasn’t going to leave.”
Placing an encouraging hand at his competitor’s back, Aleman remained with LaGrange for the remainder of the race. The two crossed the finish line within seconds of one another. Aleman even made sure LaGrange went first.
LaGrange’s mother, Becky, was more than a little bit impressed by Aleman’s thoughtful gesture—especially since the two had never met before. “It takes a lot for an 18-year-old to give up his spot,” she said. “Axel never left his side. It really speaks to Axel’s character. With so much bad going on right now, it was really a great moment of sportsmanship.”
Aleman’s own mother, Nikki, was not at all surprised by her son’s spontaneous show of goodwill. “He’s a really kind person and he’s always more concerned about others than himself,” she said.
After reports of the incident began to make the rounds on social media, Aleman received lots of positive feedback. While he might have enjoyed the accolades for his exploits, for him, the takeaway was one of simple compassion and empathy.
When you’re standing at a crossroad—or running by it—you can choose the path of self-interest, or you can go the extra mile for someone in need. For this teen athlete, the choice was clear-cut.
While we might not always recognize when life hands us an opportunity for grace, when it does, in the words of Axel Aleman, “I would just really hope people do the right thing.” Yes to that.