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Signs of Sportsmanship

Staff from other schools saved the day for Yale’s varsity eights teams, fixing a damaged boat at the NCAA championships. Matt Marriott / NCAA Photos

When we look back on the spring of 2018, we may remember this time for the recommendations of the Commission on College Basketball and the settlement of a significant concussion trial — two events that alone can make our world look daunting and gloomy.

Brian Hendrickson

So I’ll close this challenging season with examples that might remind you of the good that still exists in college athletics.

Start with the scene in Sarasota, Florida, after Subtropical Storm Alberto barreled through the NCAA rowing championships and nearly ended Yale’s varsity eights competition before it began. This was a team that had just finished as the top competitor at the Ivy League championships, had received an at-large bid to the Division I championships and was riding a wave of 13 top-10 finishes at the NCAA championships in the previous 16 years.

But in this moment, just getting a boat in the water seemed monumental.

Because when Alberto’s waves moved in, Yale’s first varsity eights boat flipped over and landed on top of its second varsity eights boat. There were four holes “the size of a fist” in the hull of the boat that flipped, as described in a story for ncaa.com. A fin lay broken. Even the second varsity eights boat, with one hole and its own broken fin, wasn’t seaworthy.

Everything suggested that the team would be sidelined.

Yet by the time Yale coach Will Porter arrived at the course with his team, the wounded second varsity eights boat was lying under a tent surrounded by people. Boatmen from the University of Central Florida and Ohio State were repairing the shell. Yaz Farooq, head coach at defending national champion Washington, ran to her trailer to find a new fin. Coaches from several schools worked to reconfigure the boat for Yale’s first varsity eights crew.

Many of these Samaritans came from schools fighting for a national title that day, including the top four finishers — California (which eventually won), Washington, Texas and Stanford. While preparing to contend for a championship, they put their priorities on another wounded crew.

The result: One of Yale’s boats was repaired so both of its eights teams could race in it. The second varsity eights race was delayed to allow the boat to be reconfigured once more. The Bulldogs posted three top-10 finishes and placed eighth as a team.

“Our athletes were minimally affected thanks to the kindness of so many people,” Porter told ncaa.com. “It was a group effort, and nobody batted an eye. It’s just what we do. It’s our culture.”

And it’s not just rowing’s culture. That very same weekend, Coker’s Darroneshia Lott ran the race of her life in the Division II Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships, only to have that lifetime achievement vanish.

She crossed the finish line of the 800-meter race a full second faster than her nearest competitor in a division-record time. Then 20 minutes later, she learned that she’d been disqualified due to a lane violation.

She was still recovering from that loss hours later when Ursuline’s Janelle Perry, who won the 100-meter hurdles for the second consecutive year, approached her in the hotel lobby. Perry felt Lott deserved something for her accomplishment — a championship lost to a technicality.

So Perry gave Lott her own national championship trophy.

“I would’ve never imagined a complete stranger offering me their championship trophy,” Lott said in a story posted on Coker’s website. “I know how much that trophy means to her (Perry), and for her to just give that to me is absolutely incredible.”

Incredible, yes. But while incidents of scandal have dominated conversations this spring, these stories of sportsmanship and selflessness occur throughout college sports every year.

Look to them for assurance when times get tough.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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