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Sports: WHS runner wins praise for aiding fallen competitor

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

Waccamaw High boys cross country coach Rob Del Bagno has always encouraged his team to embrace the concept of sportsmanship. But neither Del Bagno, nor sophomore Jackson Stacy, could have envisioned that credo would be tested as it was during the Class AA state meet.

By stopping to aid a fallen competitor, Eau Claire’s Omar Shariff, Stacy likely cost himself several spots in the finishing order. And with Waccamaw only a point shy of Academic Magnet in the team standings, any gain would have likely affected the outcome.

However, there is certainly no questioning Stacy’s actions.

“I couldn’t be prouder of Jackson for how he responded,” Del Bagno said. “What he did is the highlight of our season, more important than anything we won or could have won. And it was great to see his teammates’ reaction. They were all congratulating him. It was an unbelievable example that he set.”

“Everybody was telling me that I did the right thing,” said Stacy, who finished 37th. “They wanted to make sure I didn’t have any regrets.”

Shariff, the defending state champion, was leading the race at Sandhills Research Park last Saturday when he collapsed just after the 2-mile mark. After seeing Shariff ignored by several other runners, Stacy took matters into his own hands.

“I think everyone was kind of thinking someone else was going to help,” Stacy said. “But nobody was stopping.”

Reversing course, Stacy was able to get the attention of Del Bagno, who was the closest coach in the area.

“I was standing with one of our other runners and he saw Jackson running back down the course with his hands up trying to get someone’s attention,” Del Bagno said. “We ran over to find out what was going on and were able to get [Shariff] off the course and to where he could get medical attention.

“It was scary. And it might have been worse if not for Jackson.”

Shariff was treated at the scene and was taken for further evaluation. Additional updates were not available.

Stacy was one of five Warrior runners to finish inside the top 30. Juniors Robert Jones and Jaz Greene led the way, finishing third and seventh respectively with times of 16:37 and 16:59. Sophomore Blake Marsh was 18th and fellow sophomore Zac Benton was 32nd.

Waccamaw’s third-place performance in the team standings was a gain of three spots from its finish in 2011.

“One of our goals in the preseason was to improve on our finish from last year and we were able to do that,” Del Bagno said. “We should have everybody coming back next year. We’ve made so much progress over the last couple of years and especially this season. We need to keep that up, and hopefully, we can accomplish even more next year.”

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