Sheridan runner sacrifices own time to help stranger finish: ‘I told him I wasn’t going to leave’

If you scroll the results of the Southwestern Small School Invitational at the Blue River cross-country course in Shelbyville on Saturday, eventually you will come to this:

“No. 57 Levi LaGrange, sophomore, Western Boone, 20:31.99

No. 58 Axel Aleman, senior, Sheridan, 20:32.23”

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Not a bad finish in a big race with more than 200 competitors, but also not times either LaGrange or Aleman were used to producing. For the two runners, however, who did not know each other before the race, Saturday’s meet turned into a moment of sportsmanship that neither will ever forget.

Aleman was trailing LaGrange late in Saturday’s 5K race with roughly a half-mile remaining.

“I was running up this little rolling hill,” said LaGrange, who runs cross-country to get into shape for basketball season. “And I rolled my ankle and felt something go ‘pop.’ It was like it popped out of place real quick.”

Aleman saw it happen right in front of him. “From my point of view, it was a really sudden move,” he said. “I was able to see he was in a lot of pain. And as I got closer to him, he was limping and I asked if he was alright. He said he felt like something snapped and he was hurting a little bit.”

Another runner zoomed by and then another. LaGrange told Aleman to go ahead. “I’ll finish,” LaGrange told him. But Aleman did not consider leaving. Instead, he offered a hand — literally. He placed a hand on his back and helped push him forward, then ran with LaGrange the rest of the way.

“As soon as I saw him, I knew I had to do something,” said Aleman, who also plays soccer, wrestles and runs track. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. That mattered more than the race. I told him I wasn’t going to leave.”

As the final results showed, Aleman stayed by his side and then allowed LaGrange to finish ahead of him. LaGrange’s mother, Becky, who takes photos for the team, snapped several during the finish and then shouted to Aleman, “Hey Sheridan, great sportsmanship. Thank you so much.”

“It takes a lot for an 18-year-old to give up his spot,” Becky LaGrange said. “Axel never left his side. It really speaks to Axel’s character. With so much bad going on right now, it was really a great moment of sportsmanship.”

Aleman, who is on the student leadership council at Sheridan, did not think much of it after the race. He congratulated LaGrange for finishing and the two shared a quick hug.

“He has amazing character,” LaGrange said. “He stopped and sacrificed his own time to help someone else. I really admire him and what he did.”

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Aleman’s stepmother, Nikki Aleman, said the story fits with Axel’s character. In fact, he did not even mention what happened after he returned home, only saying that he did not have one of his better times.

“He’s a really kind person and he’s always more concerned about others than himself,” Nikki said.

As the story circulated on social media, Aleman said he has heard a lot of encouragement this week at school. He said if there is any lesson to be learned, he hopes it is this: “I would just really hope people do the right thing.”