At a Memphis, Tennessee high school cross country meet in early September, 17-year-old Seth Goldstein finished in last place, several minutes behind the few dozen other runners. At the half-way point in the course, the Cooper Yeshiva High School senior had been in the middle of the pack, maintaining a brisk pace with a solid chance to win or place high. But then he suddenly stopped running for something more important -- to save a rival's life.
A runner from nearby Germantown High had collapsed in front of him. "His lips were turning blue and his eyes were rolled back in his head," Seth later told Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "I was terrified. But then I thought to myself, freaking out isn't going to help any here."
As the other runners passed him, Seth put his lifeguard training to work as he bent over the Germantown runner alone. With the runner bleeding from the mouth because he had bitten his tongue, Seth turned the runner on his side so that he would not choke or asphyxiate.
He then summoned a nearby parent to call 911 and retrieve some ice. He reassured the parent that the Germantown runner's distress was something normal that he had seen before. (That was quick thinking because he actually had never seen anything like it before, but did not want to cause alarm.)
The parent said later that she was "in shock" at seeing the fallen runner, and thought that Seth was a parent or an emergency medical technician (EMT). "He was awesome. He was so competent and kind. When the boy started to come out of it, he just kept saying ‘You're going to be OK. We're here. We're with you.'"
When the EMTs arrived, Seth had only one request -- to resume running the race that everyone else had already finished. The EMTs had not even suspected that their Good Samaritan was a fellow runner. As he approached the finish line, his teammates returned to the course to cheer him because they knew that something special had just happened.
The Germantown runner had suffered a seizure from the heat, but he recovered fully in the hospital. According to Larry Brown Sports, Seth "showed us that selflessness does exist -- even in competition. If it were completely extinct, a high school student may have lost his life."
"Someone Who Stopped to Help Somebody"
I usually close these "Youth Sports Hero of the Month" articles with personal commentary about the story's meaning for athletes, coaches, parents, and other readers. This time, however, Seth Goldstein can speak for himself.
In today's youth sports pressure cooker, zeal to win too often trumps values that should define athletic competition. After Seth's story spread in the national press and the social media, he needed only one crisp sentence to suggest why his split-second decision to abandon the cross country race for a higher priority struck such a chord with people he had never met: "In today's society, when it's all about who can get there the fastest and what's in it for you, I guess the world was craving a story about someone who stopped to help somebody."
Sources: Geoff Calkins, Cross Country Runner Saves Life, Finishes Race, Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.), Sept. 23, 2012; Geoff Calkins, The Kid's a Phenomenon, For All the Right Reasons, Commercial Appeal, Sept. 28, 2012; Steve DelVecchio, High School Runner Seth Goldstein Stops Mid-Race to Save Rival Opponent, http://larrybrownsports.com/high-school/high-school-runner-seth-goldstei... (Sept. 27, 2012); Nadine Bells, High School Cross-Country Runner Saves Life, Finishes Race, http://sg.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/good-news/high-school-cross-country-run... (Sept. 26, 2012).
Posted November 1, 2012