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By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Staff
The typical mantra of a cross country runner is “Just keep running.” That is, no matter what impediments might appear in a runner’s path, the best practice is to keep on pushing towards the finish line, no matter what.
Try telling that to Jen Werth, Lauren Flaherty and Lindsay Schissel.
The three Westwood High School freshmen, all of whom run for the cross country team, were recently awarded Educational Athletics Achievement Awards by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) for doing the exact opposite.
“The team went down to Falmouth to run in the [MSTCA Bob McIntyre Twilight],” proudly explained Westwood Athletic Director Matt Gillis. “When the girls were on their route during the race, they came upon a girl who was injured down on the ground. The three of them just decided to stop and see what they could do to help her out.”
That injured girl - a member of an opposing cross country squad - was ultimately hospitalized, receiving prompt medical care in large part due to the intervention of the three Westwood heroes.
The incident brought the MIAA’s Rich Riley to Westwood High to present Werth, Flaherty and Schissel with a special award.
“Whenever it’s brought to my attention, I read about a student athlete, coach or team being involved in an exemplary act or initiative,” said Riley, “that’s when I get in touch with the athletic director and principal at the school and ask if we can come by and honor them.
“These are called Educational Athletics Achievement Awards,” he continued, addressing the girls. “The two pillars out of the five that we recognize today are leadership and sportsmanship.
“I say leadership because of the action you chose to pursue on that day when you noticed a runner who was having a medical issue. To me, that’s being a role model.
“And of course, sportsmanship, in that you were thinking of other people. It’s just a terrific act.”
As the girls were presented with their awards, their teammates, coaches and school administrators vigorously applauded.
“I just thought it was outstanding - that whole story,” added Riley.
As photos were snapped and the Good Samaritans were congratulated, Athletic Director Gillis watched on with pride. “They saw someone that was in need of help, so they made the decision to stop,” he stated. “It’s just a great example of sportsmanship.”