A middle school cross country runner is being recognized for encouraging a runner from the other team who was exhausted after the race. At a recent cross country meet in Syracuse, New York, Liverpool runner Cooper Kohanski was caught checking on one of his opponents who was having a hard time. Baldwinsville runner Andrew Hawkinson was kneeling at the finish line, overcome with exhaustion and Cooper stopped to help him.
At the finish of Andrew’s first ever cross country race, he had to take a knee and was struggling to catch his breath. Cooper heard someone sobbing, so he turned back to see if he could help. Andrew’s mom, Wendy Hawkinson, came to meet her son at the finish line and was surprised to see one of his opponents comforting him. "As a mom and a teacher, it just really fed my soul and I was just really impressed," she says. "I wouldn't have expected somebody from the other team to check on him."
But the act of kindness wasn’t a surprise to Cooper’s coach, Greg Hamilton, who says Cooper’s always the kid out there motivating his teammates. And the eighth-grader says that’s in large part to the direction Hamilton gives the team, teaching that sportsmanship and character are more important than winning. "It's not always win this win that,” Cooper says. “It's don't be mean, don't be rude."