Cross Country has been a big part of Liana Blomgren’s high school experience. Now a Senior, Liana just ran the final race of her high school career, and it ended in disqualification. Even so, it’s undoubtedly the most memorable race Liana has ever run!
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It all started with 8th grader Gracie Bucher, Liana’s opponent. As Gracie ran, she suddenly lost control of her body. Her legs felt heavy and she struggled to breathe. She hit the ground, pulled herself up, and then fell again, stumbling to the the ground several times. Gracie’s mother called the scene “excruciating” and recalls hearing people shout “You can’t touch her, you can’t touch her.”
According to the Minnesota State High School League rules, runners are not allowed to touch one another during a race, even if one runner is giving another assistance. This is a rule Liana knew well, but as she watched Gracie struggle, Liana didn’t care.
“I knew she wasn’t going to get to the finish line by herself, and I knew that she needed somebody and nobody else was there for her,” Liana said.
The race was a blur for Gracie, but she remembers Liana holding her up and saying “You’re with me, I’ve got you,” as the pair struggled together across the finish line.
Later she said that the older student was “a miracle” for her. “She was like my angel that day,” Gracie said.
Liana was disqualified for breaking the rule, as expected. Gracie was also disqualified and was taken to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with mononucleosis.
The next day, Gracie sent flowers to Liana’s school with a note saying “Thank you for being my angel.”
Days later, Gracie presented Liana with balloons, a stuffed animal and a Dairy Queen gift card, “because I DQ’d her,” Gracie joked.
Liana’s actions and sportsmanship truly left a mark on Gracie. “Knowing that she would do that, especially her Senior year in her last race, it just means everything,”the middle schooler said.
But the race not only impacted Gracie, it affected the national organization overseeing high school athletics. The organization decided to change the rule so that, starting in 2017, a runner who stops to assist a competitor will not be disqualified.
“I don’t remember what place I was in the section meet last year.” said Liana, “I don’t remember what place I was in the section meet the year before that. But I know I’m going to remember this.”
For more stories about inspirational runners, check out this story of hundreds of runners racing together in support of a teenager after his traumatic assault and this high schooler who ran and entire race hand-in-hand with an autistic opponent.
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