The motto of Camp Belknap near Wolfeboro, New Hampshire is “God first, the other fellow second and myself last.”
Wilton junior Davis Cote, who now spends his summers there in a leadership role, exemplified that in a major way when a competitor collapsed moments before the finish line mere steps ahead of Cote.
Cote was about to finish one of the biggest races of the campaign, hoping to help the Warriors as far up the FCIAC standings as possible. Displaying a tremendous act of selflessness, Cote turned around, helped Danbury senior Aidan Byrne to his feet and dragged him across the line.
“It’s about a 200-meter straightaway to end the race, and I saw (Byrne) and he looked out of it,” Cote said Wednesday. “He was limping and stumbling, and he eventually collapsed right next to me. Without really thinking I just picked him up. It was just an in-the-moment thing.”
The race was going to plan for the Byrne for most of the five kilometer journey through Waveny Park in New Canaan. He was in position for a potential top 10 finish heading into the final stretch. Byrne was 100 meters from the line before giving way and falling to the floor. Cote provided the assist and the two finished the race.
“It was a great act of sportsmanship and humanity,” Danbury coach Rob Murray said. “We ask society to try to be there for one another, but especially in a competitive arena such as sports that doesn’t cross your mind. It did for (Cote) and it shows a lot of character; he just cared about someone else finishing and he sacrificed his place to help (Byrne).”
Cote — who said he wasn’t having his best race either — gave up about 10 spots with the gesture, a not-so-insignificant amount for a race that competitors wait all season for. In previous years, runners aiding one another would have been disqualified from the race.
“I would say in running particularly, as a sport you have so much respect for the other athletes,” Cote said. “You know how much effort and hard work goes into it during the season. I know Aidan is a great athlete and runner, he probably trained through (the entire year). Everyone deserves to finish the race.”
Following the race, Davis checked on his competitor and received embraces from Danbury teammates. Officially Byrne finished in 55th place (18:05) while Cote was 60th (18:11). Byrne spent the night in the hospital, but felt better Wednesday and was scheduled to be sent home.
“When I saw my guys shaking hands with (Cote) saying thank you I figured they knew him or were friends,” said Murray, who didn’t see the fall as he was on a different part of the course. “(Cote) came over and made sure Aidan was alright.”
CCC ON TOP
The Conard boys team was a near undisputed No. 1 team in the state in the latest MySportsResults/soundRUNNER poll, with 13 of 14 first-place votes headed in the Chieftains’ direction. Sitting behind them is Tolland, which was coming off a strong performance at the Wickham Invitational as the top team from Connecticut at the event.
The Chieftains bested the Eagles at the season-opening Haddad Invitational, but everything changed Wednesday at Wickham Park for the CCC championships. Tolland claimed the title as Alec Sauter, Jackson Cayward and Jacob Gerow all finished in the top seven. All five eagles runners were in the top 15. Conard’s Gavin Sherry won the race.
The Hall girls squad has a similar stranglehold on top spot with 13 first-place votes heading into the postseason. The carried into the CCC championships as Jenna Zydanowicz finished second overall to lead her squad to the team title. Manchester’s Kate Hedlund won the event.
MORE CONFERENCE MEETS
The CCC, FCIAC and CTC got their races in before Wednesday’s rain put a damper on the rest of the schedule. Most league meets are slated for Thursday and Friday, with the state class meets set for next Saturday. Ridgefield, Hall and Abbott Tech girls won league crowns while Tolland, Staples and Platt Tech won boys titles.