CARTERVILLE – Twins Claire and Chloe Gruenke both finished last in their 800-meter race during the Illinois junior high track meet, but many consider the eighth-graders first in sportsmanship.
When Chloe fell to the ground with a muscle strain more than 350 meters from the finish during Saturday’s state meet in Carterville, Claire carried her sister and classmate at Trenton’s Wesclin Junior High on her back the rest of the way.
Claire said later the piggyback ride, first reported by WSIL-TV, was a no-brainer. Claire set Chloe down just before the finish as fans stood clapping, with Chloe recalling her sister wanted her to finish first. They instead crossed the finish line together.
“I was just proud that I was able to do that, but also happy that she was able to finish it,” Claire told the Belleville News Democrat.
“They didn’t win the race, but they won the hearts of everyone in the audience,” added their coach, Ted Crail. “I’ve been coaching for 20 years. This was the first time I ever had tears in my eyes at one of the meets.”
It’s not the first time Claire, who earlier Saturday had won the mile run with a time of 5:23, has looked out for her sister. During the regional meet May 1 in Centralia, Crail said, Claire already had qualified to run the mile at state when she let Chloe finish second, just ahead of her, in the 800-meter race so both could compete at state in that event.