Jesse Orach, a recent graduate of the University of Maine, has quite the track record. All four years of college he competed in cross country, winning events and earning honors. This past weekend the 23-year-old attempted to defend one of his most recent titles: first place among the men in Maine’s Beach to Beacon 10K race.
Towards the end of the race it appeared that Orach would win with no problem, but suddenly he collapsed.
“It kind of seemed like it was over for me,” Orach told the Portland Press Herald.
The recent graduate was winning the race until he reportedly suffered heatstroke.
When Robert Gomez, Orach’s top competitor, spotted his opponent he knew he couldn’t leave him lying on the ground. Gomez said he was able to keep up with Orach in the beginning, but soon after he fell about 30 seconds behind and didn’t recover until he came across a group of medical personnel hovering over Orach close to the finish line.
“I couldn’t leave him there. In the running community, I feel camaraderie comes before competitiveness,” Gomez told the Portland Press Herald.
Risking first place and a personal best, Gomez stopped to pick Orach up and get him back on his feet.
Orach didn’t think he could finish the race, until his competitor stepped in and helped him.
Orach was very unsteady on his legs and described the last quarter mile as an “eternity.” He wasn’t even sure he could finish the race. About 100 yards away from the finish line, Orach stumbled and just as his body was about to give up on him, Gomez was right by his side and held up him.
The two were now running side by side and as they neared the finish line Gomez slowed a half step behind Orach and gave him a slight nudge.
“He ran a better race. He gave it more than I did,” he said. “I didn’t deserve to win.”
Gomez helped Orach cross the finish line.
Both men finished the race at the same time, 31 minutes and 31 seconds.
Although according to the rules any runner who receives assistance or gives assistance to another is grounds for disqualification, a finish-line referee said neither runners would be disqualified from the race.
Orach, who had only met Gomez the day before at the pre-race press conference, didn’t immediately realize he won the title for the second year in a row. He was just extremely thankful Gomez helped him across the finish line. And though Gomez didn’t win the race, he did run a personal best.
After he crossed the finish line, Orach collapsed again and was taken to a medical tent where he was treated for a heatstroke. It was reported that his internal body temperature reached 107.3 degrees.