An Inspiring Struggle for a Coach and a Team

We’ve been avoiding posting inspirational stories here that have a sports connection. We seem to have a lot of them lately. But you can’t deny some of the incredibly courageous and inspiring events that often, seemingly, take place during athletic competitions. Just this past Saturday, Nov. 27, we saw yet another example during a high school cross-country race held in Fresno, California. Holland Reynolds of San Francisco University High School willed herself to finish a race after collapsing with little more than five yards to go to the finish line.

The video of her, which is now getting aired on TV stations across the country and is being seen on YouTube, shows her struggling to even remain upright not far from the finish line. And this wasn’t any ordinary cross-country race; this was a race that had layers of meaning to it. It was the last cross-country meet of the year for Holland and her school. It was a meet that would determine the state championship. And it was the last race her coach, Jim Tracy, would be coaching. He was recently diagnosed with ALS, or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — and his health and ability to even walk is declining quickly.

Holland hit the wall, as they say in racing. She went down completely, sprawling on the ground, looking. Yet she struggled to her knees as an official rushed over to check on her. The official held back, not giving her any help. If he had even reached out to touch her, she would have been disqualified from the race. He leaned over, speaking with her, and watched her along with everyone else present in the finish area, crawl slowly as runner after runner breezed over the finish line. Holland finally reached the finish line and quickly was scooped up into the arms of race officials, who carried her off to assist her. She finished the race and earned enough points for her team to help them win the championship. And as a result, Coach Tracy earned his 8th division title, setting a state record.

Holland said that when she collapsed, she remembered being confused. But she also told ABC News that she thought about “just finishing. And finishing for Jim. And for my team, ultimately. The entire season, my team and I just really wanted to perform well for Jim, and leave him in his last cross-country season with something to remember.”

That she did. Not only will her coach not forget this finish, but neither will anyone who watches it.