Cross country runner recognized for helping teammate

- A Plant City High School cross country runner is being applauded for a moment of sportsmanship that transcends sports.

Luke Whitmore, 16, and Walker Thomas, 15, from Plant High School, were running a few feet from each other at the  Cross Country Boys State Finals at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee.

As they neared the finish line, something happened to Walker.

"I just started to run out of energy and about like 250 meters to go, I just totally collapsed," he said.

But rather than leave Walker in the dust, Luke did something incredible. He took his competitor under his arm, guided him to the finish line and helped him across.

"When I first picked him up, he was saying, 'No, you just go, you go, it's all right,'" Luke said. "I threw his arm over my shoulder and we kept going. And he said, 'Just go.' And I told him, 'No we're finishing this  together. This is both of us here.'"

"I couldn't believe anyone would come back and to help finish the race with me because it's the most important race of the entire year. And everybody's been training for it for months and months and he gave up his whole race to help me finish," Walker added.

Walker's parents watched it all unfold from the stands.

"It's a lot of emotions. It's hard not to be emotional thinking back about it," said Clay Thomas, Walker's father. "This isn't the kind of thing you see in every sport and I would like to think there are other runners  who would do this. That being said, Luke's an exceptional young man."

"I didn't think twice about it. And I think God really led me to do that," Luke said.

Cedric Gillette, a photographer working the race, said the moment inspired him and he snapped several pictures as it all unfolded.

"I was just trying to take pictures of everyone and then I saw them coming down the hill," said Cedric. "I  thought, 'Oh wow. This is incredible - him helping a kid who's not even on his team to finish. I have to capture  this moment.'"

Luke and Walker finished 162nd and 163rd out of about 200 runners. But they both came out feeling like winners.

"Kind of a really cool experience for both of us to finish that state meet together," Luke said.

"Just putting someone else before yourself and showing good sportsmanship through that, it's just really great. And I made a friend out of it," said Walker.

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