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Conference Rivals to Nationals; A Story of Sportsmanship

Conference Rivals to Nationals; A Story of Sportsmanship

They have lined up next to each other on numerous occasions over the years, competing head-to-head in arguably the most exciting track and field events; the dash races and the team relay events. Principia College's Corey Carter and Greenville University's Jeremiah Davis have made a name for themselves not only in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference but nationally. The pair were two members of a top-three sweep by the SLIAC in the 200-meter dash at last year's NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships. Carter took 1st and is a three-time All-American while Davis finished 3rd to pick up the second All-American honor of his career. 

But this past Friday, at the Principia College Relays, the two were just as impressive for something that won't show up on the timing sheets; sportsmanship. Carter had already competed in his preliminary heat in the 60-meter dash and moments later it was Davis crossing the finish line in his heat. Davis won his prelim heat and put up the 3rd best prelim time and was ready for another showdown against Carter. However, after crossing the finish line Davis felt tightness in his leg and was shut down for the rest of the weekend. 

"After the 60-meter prelims, I faced some adversity that took me out for the rest of the meet. I was broken up over the fact that I couldn't race. I felt like I couldn't get up after the injury, at least for the rest of the meet. But I found a way to pick myself up and cheer my teammates on," said Davis.

Davis looked on as Carter warmed up for his next race. Davis wouldn't have the chance to face his rival on Friday night but what he did next was something that the track rivals and their coaches will never forget. With an ice pack still wrapped around his leg, Davis limped over onto the track, without a prompt, and sat down behind Carter's lane and held his starting blocks.

"When I came to Greenville University I was a selfish teammate. My selfishness showed over the years. On Friday night I wanted to show everyone who I was, who I have become. When Corey was setting up his blocks, I wanted to be the one to hold them for him. We never spoke before that night, but I wanted him to know that I am here for him. At that moment it became personal for me," said Davis.

"Even though Jeremiah and I are intense rival competitors there is mutual respect between the two of us," said Carter. "I think the act of him holding my blocks signified him wanting me to do my best because he wanted nothing less than my best. He would want me to be at my best when were are racing, making each other a better person and athlete." 

"I must tell you, I am encouraged to tears that Jeremiah got himself together and had the wherewithal to go hold Corey's blocks with the heartbreak he was dealing with himself that night," said Greenville University head coach Brian Patton. "The fact that he had no clue anyone was watching or would take note is extra special to me. I had no clue it even happened until Robert (Baker) told me on Saturday morning."

"Seeing Jeremiah holding Corey's block took me by surprise," said Principia College head coach Robert Baker. "The three things that came to me watching it unfold were unselfishness, mutual respect, and brotherly love. That picture of Jeremiah with the ice pack on his leg, holding Corey's blocks will be displayed in my office and at my home. That is a lasting memory for me and a highlight in my 34-year coaching career. It gives me renewed faith in humanity."

"Our goal as a team is to view our competitors as "teammates in a different uniform" that God provides to help us compete to the best of our ability," said Patton.

"The night ended with both of us showing brotherly love towards each other," said Davis. "For that, I will remember Corey forever. My coach wants me to run fast but more importantly, he wants me to become a better person. Over the years he fought for me. I hope I am making him proud of the person I am becoming."

Carter and Davis will certainly win more medals to drape around their necks this season and can sit around in the future and reminisce about their numerous honors and awards. However, on Friday night they achieved something that they can always carry with them, even if it isn't physically visible; the act of competing with respect and sportsmanship.

(Courtesy of SLIAC)