Sportsmanship is still alive |

Sportsmanship is still alive

Steve Yingling

Memo to the National Football League: How come a pair of high school sophomores know way more about sportsmanship than the so-called professionals in your league?

Paul Tagliabue, you should make most of your players attend a seminar directed by these young men. They’d learn to hand the ball to the referee when they crossed the goal line and head back to the huddle after recording a quarterback sack. They may even discover that it looks ridiculous to celebrate personal glory when your team is trailing by three touchdowns.

What’s happened to sportsmanship and why is it least observed at sports’ highest levels? Surely the coaches and players learned about it when they were kids. Children are taught to shake hands following their Little League, Pop Warner and AYSO games, but many times they sneak through the line without offering congratulations or they try to see who can slap hands the hardest.

Sportsmanship needed a few new ambassadors, and they don’t get any better than the two that emerged on Saturday.

When I heard what cross country runner Patrick Reilly – better known as P.J. – did at the Nevada Union Invitational, it didn’t surprise me. Reilly is more than a sportsman – he’s polite, hardworking and people like being around him. (Patrick, I know these compliments will cause you severe hardship with your classmates because they know you better, but I know you can deal with it).

What Reilly did last Saturday in Grass Valley just doesn’t happen very often in this me-first sports world. And Reilly couldn’t have done it without the generous display of sportsmanship by teammate Joey Summerhill.

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Reilly began the 5-kilometer race as he always does – on the shoulder of the lead runner. However, the lead runner from Placer erred on the first turn, taking Reilly with him toward a possible disqualification. To the rescue came Summerhill. With Reilly going off course, Summerhill stood a chance to win his first varsity race.

But like Reilly, Summerhill bleeds blue and gold and doesn’t mind hanging around P.J. after races either. So Summerhill stopped and called ahead to Reilly, informing his buddy to get back on track. Reilly obliged and went on to build a 30-second lead heading back into the Nevada Union Miners’ stadium for the final leg of the race.

That’s when Reilly stunned the stadium crowd by waiting for Summerhill to catch up so they could proceed to the finish line together.

“I saw him jogging a little bit and then he stopped,” Summerhill said. “It was pretty cool.”

At the finish line, Reilly let Summerhill win the race, giving sportsmanship a fresh face.

“I kind of argued with him at the finish line,” Summerhill said.

Reilly said he hatched the idea to honor Summerhill as he came down a hill into the stadium.

“Either I would not have finished the race at all or finished second because I owed it to him,” Reilly said. “He stopped in his run to yell at me to come back, so I owed it to him to stop, too.

“He truly would have won the race if I hadn’t been there, so I was like, ‘He deserves to win it.’ “

Where did Summerhill and Reilly learn this unique quality? They certainly didn’t soak it up by watching the Sunday Ticket where taunting opponents is the norm.

Reilly said STHS cross country coach Dominique Westlake had a similar experience several years back in the Kokanee Trail Run half-marathon. The eventual winner drafted behind Westlake for most of the race and used a stronger kick over the final 800 meters to win the race in a record time. But not before trying to honor Westlake for all the work he did in getting him the record.

“He stopped at the finish line and Westlake pushed him across the line and that’s where I kind of learned it from,” Reilly said.

Summerhill and Reilly accomplished more than a 1-2 finish on Saturday. They taught everybody who witnessed their graciousness that there is a right way to play the game. Sportsmanship is still alive and that’s nice to know.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or