This is the kind of story that I just can’t pass up. It’s a story of a high school junior who proved that he was a man on September 16.
In the middle of the Applejack Invite in Lakeville, Minnesota, an Andover High School student, Josh Ripley, was competing in a cross country 2-mile junior varsity race when he heard the screams emanating from a Lakeville South Runner.
While the other runners ran on by, ignoring Mark Paulauskas in their quest to win the 2-mile race, Josh stopped to help his opponent who was bleeding profusely from the ankle. Concerned that Mark might have punctured his Achilles heel, Josh forgot about the race, picked up the wounded runner, and carried him for a half a mile to get him back to his coach and parents. Once he was certain that Mark was in capable hands, Josh got back into the race.
Josh stated in the Anoka-Hennepin school district press release, “I didn’t think about my race, I knew I needed to stop and help him. It was something I would expect my other teammates to do. I’m nothing special; I was just in the right place at the right time.”
As it turned out, it was a very good thing that Josh acted so quickly, because when Paulauskas arrived at the hospital, doctors discovered that he had been spiked accidentally by another runner’s shoe during the race, an injury which required 20 stitches to close properly. Paulauskas left in a walking boot to protect the wounded area from further injury.
Both Mark’s parents and his coach were extremely grateful for Josh’s selfless actions.
“I was stunned and so proud of the sportsmanship and kindness he showed to our runner who was injured,” said Jessica Just, the Lakeville South team’s coach. “The family, our Lakeville South coaching staff and our whole team were so thankful and appreciative of Josh’s act of kindness and selflessness to a rival competitor.”
And Mark’s father, Gene Paulauskas reported, “While I was running with Mark in my arms [to get medical attention], he told me that it was a runner from another team who had stopped and helped him to an area of the course where he could get some help. It was horrible to see Mark with such a bad injury, but we were all struck by the selfless act of compassion, kindness and sportsmanship exhibited by Josh Ripely, the Andover runner.”
Meanwhile, when Scott Clark, Josh’s coach, was told that Josh was carrying a runner, he admitted that he assumed he had heard incorrectly, a notion which was quickly proven wrong.
“Then Josh comes jogging into view carrying a runner,” Clark said. “I noticed the blood on the runner’s ankle as Josh handed him off to one of the coaches from Lakeville. Josh was tired and you could tell his focus was off as he started back on the course, clearly he intended to finish, this happening inside the first mile. I got his attention and told him to relax and get his focus back for racing and not worry about his place. Josh continued to run and finished.”
What this boy did was remarkable! His willingness to sacrifice his own chances of winning an important race, his calm, quick thinking that allowed him to get this boy to those who could help him, and the physical endurance it took to carry this injured boy a half mile and then finish the race he started, speaks volumes as to his character, his determination, and his kindness.
Coach Clark said that what Josh did told a lot about him as an individual. “Clearly Josh is a compassionate and caring person. We consistently talk about being a team and caring about how each person on the team does. Cross country is filled with quality athletes at each school. It is always gratifying to see it exhibited in such a way as Josh did.”
Josh will be honored by the Anoka-Hennepin School Board on Monday, September 26, at 6:30 in Coon Rapids.
We all honor you, Josh. Your sacrifice and sportsmanship have not gone unnoticed. What an amazing young man! This is the stuff of which heroes are born!