Fambrough: Runner Derrick Small forsakes race to help struggling foe

By Robin Fambrough

Advocate sportswriter

Many High’s Derrick Small wasn’t showered by the cheers of fans at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Cross Country Championships last week.

According to the official results, the 16-year-old junior finished 129th in a field of 130 runners. For me, Small was the biggest winner who laced up a pair of shoes to compete in the two-day event held at Northwestern State in Natchitoches.

Why? Because he did the right thing.

In the back of our minds all of us wonder how we would respond in a moment of crisis. Would I do and say the right things?

Based on the accounts provided by medical staff on site, Small made all the right moves during the three-mile Class 2A boys race held Monday. As he ran the course, Small saw a runner down with a couple of people crowded around him.

Small has asthma and he saw that Delcambre High’s Dezzi Viator was having trouble breathing between the one-mile and two-mile mark. He asked Viator if he had asthma and after Viator said yes, Small abandoned his race plans and ran instead for the Many High team area where he knew there was a rescue inhaler.

Along the way, he saw medical personnel in a golf cart. After getting a ride to the team area to pick up the inhaler, Small and medical personnel returned to Viator, who was later treated by paramedics.

Once the situation was under control, Small resumed his race.

“It was the right thing to do,” Small said. “I have asthma myself, and I know how hard it can be to breathe on a colder day. I did what I hope someone would do for me.”

Based on the day he had already had, Small could have been indifferent when he saw another runner on the course. The young Many team consists of a number of first- and second-year runners. While doing their prerace warm-up, the group got confused when they saw runners at the starting line. So they jumped into the 1A race, instead of waiting for the 2A race.

Many coach Andrew Newman pulled his runners off the course two miles into the 1A race. Small and others drank some water and started the 2A race.

“Derrick is one of our top seven and normally he would have been ahead of where he was in that (2A) race,” Newman said. “Obviously, we’re extremely proud of him. He set a good example.”

Proof that Small follows through on commitments was also displayed last Monday. Medical staff asked Small to stay around the finish area so that the media and LHSAA officials could meet him. But Small soon left because he was scheduled to work at the Many-based Sonic restaurant at 4:30 p.m.

Small will likely get one more chance to run at the LHSAA state meet. I know I’ll be pulling for him. Whether he becomes a top 10 finisher or wins the race won’t change my point of view. He’s already a champion in my eyes.