When Falkville High School's Bram Miller received his gold medal for winning the Class 1A state high jump title on May 2, the public address announcer told everyone in Selma Memorial Stadium that the sophomore had set a state record by clearing 6 feet, 8 inches.
The state title alone was quite an accomplishment because Bram had practiced with the track team full-time for only two weeks since finishing the spring JV baseball season. Setting the state Class 1A record added luster.
But Bram knew that meet officials and the public address announcer had made a mistake. He and two other competitors had each cleared the bar at 6 feet, 6 inches, and he won the title on fewest misses.
All three missed at 6-8, though he came close. He also missed at 6-6 1/2, which would have erased the existing record of 6-6 1/4.
"It Was the Right Thing to Do"
The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) said later that, had Bram Miller remained silent, his "record" would have stood and no one would have known the difference.
But Bram rejected silence because he knew the difference. When an official at the victors' podium congratulated him for clearing 6-8 and breaking the record, he responded, "No sir. I got 6-6." Then he told his coach about the officials' mistake and requested correction, which the state Association made the next morning.
His explanation? "I did not deserve the state record because I didn't set it. I had to tell someone. It was the right thing to do."
"Something That I Did Not Earn"
Bram Miller's honesty recalls a similar incident that took place on a ski slope in Massachusetts in early March 2010. Chelmsford High School senior Rebecca Wong, the subject of my Heroes column a few months later, finished tenth in the state high school alpine skiing championships, the final medal position. Or so she and everyone else on the slopes thought.
When Rebecca watched a film of her slalom run afterwards, she realized that she had missed a gate near the bottom of the course and should have been disqualified. Race officials had not seen the miss, and neither had any spectator.
Rather than remain silent, she e-mailed the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association to report her infraction and return the medal. Her reasoning echoed Bram Miller's last month: "I certainly cannot accept credit for something that I did not earn," she told her coach.
"When The Cheering Is Gone"
The Alabama High School Athletic Association's director of communications closed the book on last month's state track and field championships. When athletes in Bram Miller's position choose the high road, he said, "[w]e act surprised but we shouldn't be. Kids have much more integrity than we give them credit for."
"Heroes come cheap these days," Tampa Tribune columnist Joe Henderson complained about the sports scene a few years ago. "Too often all that matters is what one can do with a ball. . . . We should know better though. Real heroes endure after the game is over. When the cheering is gone and all that is left is their character. And their dignity."
Sources: Dave Krider, "High Jumper Bram Miller Shows Honesty After Being Mistakenly Credited With State Record," http://www.maxpreps.com/news/uePVhOorNEK_L2eI-kCulQ/high-jumper-bram-mil... (May 8, 2014); AHSAA, "Falkville High Jumper Points Out Scoring Mistake," http://www.ahsaa.com/AHSAA/News/2014FalkvilleHighJumperPointsOutMistake/... Barry Scanlon, "For Rebecca Wong, It Was All About Doing the Right Thing," Lowell (Mass.) Sun, Mar. 21, 2010.