Meghan Vogel was about to finish dead last in a race that she had hoped to win.
Vogel isn’t regularly a loser, in fact she’s one of the best runners in the state of Ohio.
Earlier that day she had won the state title in the 1600 meters.
But now the 3200 meters was proving to be a different story.
There was no doubt that she would be the final finisher.
Only a few dozen yards ahead of her was Sophomore Arden McMath.
This race hadn’t gone well for her either.
With no way of winning,
McMath had to be taking solace in the fact that she wouldn’t finish last.
Finishing last is an embarrassment.
To be the worst competitor on the field is an idea that every athlete abhors.
Because of this they train and discipline their bodies to withstand the rigors of competition,
working for an excellence in practice that produces greatness of achievement over sustained periods of time.
But this training isn’t always enough.
When the human body has had enough, it’s had enough.
Arden McMath’s body had had enough,
and it was about to betray her.
While the human body is much stronger than we believe it to be,
it also isn’t as strong as the mind or the spirit is.
Runners with more determination than strength know this.
It isn’t rare to see footage of a spent athlete attempting to force themselves across a finish line.
In these scenarios the desire to continue competing causes the mind to send signals to the body parts,
even when those body parts have lost the ability to respond properly.
The spastic movements are a sharp contrast to the graceful, disciplined movements displayed only moments before.
If finishing last is an embarrassment, failing to finish from exhaustion is a humiliation.
McMath’s limbs stopped cooperating.
Her lungs grew shallow.
Her vision began to give way.
In less than a second she would be an unconscious heap on the track.
McMath’s misfortune had provided a miraculous opportunity for Meghan Vogel.
All she had to do was keep striding to finish ahead of her doomed rival.
She only needed to make sure she didn’t bump into her as she passed,
Because interfering with another runner disqualifies you from a race.
Even though she had fallen, Arden McMath didn’t stay on the ground.
Instead of passing her Meghan Vogel interrupted the public meltdown.
You’ve no doubt already seen the video.
You’ve probably also already heard Vogel talk about the bond between distance runners,
and how her mother is her coach.
But have you considered that Meghan Vogel chose to finish the race in last place?
If it’s difficult to ignore the lump in your throat as Vogel carries McMath towards the finish line,
it’s nearly impossible to hold back the tears as she stops before the marker to force McMath across first.
In that moment Meghan Vogel didn’t merely offer assistance to a needy person,
she did so when her assistance guaranteed her own failure.
Whether by disqualification or official timing, Vogel refused to profit from the misfortune of another.
But that doesn’t mean that she isn’t an opportunist.
Meghan Vogel saw misfortune as an opportunity for grace and mercy to triumph over ambition and self-preservation.
In those final 100 meters of selflessness, we all profited from her rare approach to opportunism.
By protecting McMath from humilitation, she guaranteed that a last place finish would hold a first place in our memories.
She took the opportunity to push us all towards a goal that is achievable,
But only when we take our mind off of fear and place it onto the welfare of others.
One young woman was about to finish dead last in a race that she had hoped to win.
Another was about to collapse in a race that she was trying to survive.
Because one of them was willing to finish last,
Nobody had to lose.
If only we’d all take such opportunities.