WALKER – If you’ve heard that sports can teach people life lessons, it’s true.
And for those who don’t believe it, what happened at the conclusion of the Livingston Parish Track Meet on March 15 is proof of it.
The people who stayed until the end of the meet got a lesson in sportsmanship and a bit more, and they probably didn’t even realize it when it happened.
To set the stage, the large-school boys competition boiled down to Walker and Denham Springs High — schools that traded the overall lead several times during the course of the meet.
In the end, the team championship came down to the meet’s final race — the 4x400 relay, where Denham’s Julian White passed Walker’s Andrew King to give the Yellow Jackets the win in the event in 3 minutes, 41.41 seconds while Walker took second in 3:42.12.
DSHS coach Josh Neal did his number-crunching before the race and he figured the Yellow Jackets and Wildcats were going to share the championship if his relay team pulled out a win. So when the race was over, Neal figured there was a tie.
But that’s not what happened originally.
When the results were announced, Walker won the championship and Denham was second.
For those who have been around sports and know the emotions that come with competition, the announcement could have triggered some raw feelings from Neal and his team. That’s not what happened, either.
Neal calmly walked to the scorer’s tent — clipboard in hand — and pointed out he thought there was a mistake. This too, could have created more conflict with Walker coach Will Silk and his team, which had just been declared the meet winner.
But that’s not what happened.
Silk, Neal and meet host coaches Vance Law of Albany and Mike Ganis of Springfield huddled up and realized there was indeed a scoring mistake. At this point, tempers could have been flaring, but they weren’t.
After a few minutes, the results were recalculated, and Neal’s projection heading into the final event was correct, as Denham’s win in the 4x400 relay forged a tie between Walker and the Yellow Jackets with 115 points each in the final standings.
This could have set off another potentially hostile situation. But that didn’t happen. Instead, Walker, which had already taken a team photo with the trophy, relinquished it to allow DSHS to do the same.
Is it possible there were some bruised feelings on the Walker side of things? Sure. But it didn’t show, and that’s a credit to all coaches involved and the way they handled the situation.
It was as if the teams involved took a cue from their coaches and followed their example. After all, it’s up to the coaches to set the example for their athletes. If that sounds like a big responsibility, it is.
For those who think the athletes aren’t paying attention to their coaches, think again. All one had to do was watch the end of the boys large schools 110-meter hurdles, which Walker’s Landen Harper won over Denham’s D’Angelo Stewart.
The winning and second-place times in that race could be placed here, but that’s not important. What happened at the end of the race is.
Stewart tweaked his ankle earlier in the day while winning the high jump, and Harper noticed Stewart was hobbled by it at the end of the race. In a lasting image from the meet, Harper went over and carried Stewart on his back for a short distance until Stewart got help from others in getting to the trainer’s tent.
“We’re real good friends,” Harper said of the gesture. “He (Stewart) was telling me about his ankle when we were about to start, and then when I turned around after we finished, I saw him limping, I said, ‘I want to get you off your feet.’ So I just carried him as far as I could to his coach.”
“We’re pretty friendly. It’s a battle, but it’s not a fight. We’re all cool.”
And that, my friends, is a lesson learned.
Rob DeArmond is a sports writer for The Livingston Parish News.
You can reach him at Robdearm@gmail.com.
Follow on Twitter: @RobDeArmond | @LPN_Sports | @LPNews1898