High school runner disqualified from race after helping rival who collapsed

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COLUMBUS JUNCTION, Iowa -- A high school runner in Iowa won a big race, but he won't get credit. He was disqualified for an act of kindness.

During the district cross-country championship, Zach Hougland helped another runner.

Hougland’s coach says the other runner was on the ground unconscious. Without a second thought, Hougland helped him get closer to the finish line.

"I see this kid, he's like dying and what not, and he's about ready to fall," Hougland told WHO-TV.

However, Iowa state athletic rules say no runner can help or receive aid from another runner, so they were both disqualified.

“I didn't want anyone to see me break down because I couldn't take it, all that work for nothing. But if I could do it all again, I wouldn't change a thing because I did what I thought was right," Hougland said.

The rest of Hougland’s team scored well enough to finish overall and qualified for state. That means Hougland will still be able to compete in their meet this Saturday.


  • Vincent Colombo

    I think Zack Hougland’s win in choosing to do what was right over what was pragmatic trumps the the win he would have earned for his race. Of course the DQ was a big disappointment, but in sports, as opposed to government, rules must be enforced rigorously. If there is a need for exception, the rule can be amended, but that cannot be retroactive.
    This young man will probably gain more respect and future consideration from his behavior at this event than he could expect from having another recorded 1st place. He is certainly a winner by anyone’s standards.

  • Hugs

    I am confused. Hougland’s coach says the other runner was on the ground unconscious. And the other section said he is about to fall, so he helped him to the finish line. Was it a race to qualify or it is just run for fun? If it is to run for the qualification, I don’t think it is fair to the other runners. It is not a good choice he made, and I support the ruling.

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