Josh Ripley insists he did "nothing special," but the high school runner is being lauded as a hero for scooping up a badly injured competitor and carrying him a quarter-mile to safety during a cross-country meet in suburban Minneapolis.
Most of the other 260 runners in the 5-K race probably didn't notice the rival who had crumpled to the ground, bleeding profusely. Or if they did, maybe they intended to summon help once they reached the coaches standing far down the course.
What's clear is that nobody stopped to assist Mark Paulauskas until Josh, 16, saw him on the ground, bloodied and in pain.
"I had heard this scream, and as I rounded a corner, he came into view," Josh said. "He was against a fence holding his ankle, and it was bleeding pretty badly.
"I picked him up and ran with him in my arms. I asked if I could say a prayer for him, and he said that was fine. And I just tried to reassure him that everything would be OK."
It was quite a sight when the two runners finally rounded into the view of their coaches. There was the 6-foot-5, 185 pound Josh, from Andover High School, cradling the 5-foot-5, 100 pound Mark, a freshman at Lakeville South H.S., in his arms.
"I am waiting for all my kids to go running by, and there is no Josh, no Josh," his coach, Scott Clark, said. "I was wondering, 'What was going on? Why was he so far back?
"Then I see Josh. … He's got the kid in his arms, like you would carry a youngster."
Like a scene out of a movie, Josh handed off the injured runner, and then sped off, resuming the race.
Josh was dead last when he returned to the course, but he quickly made up for lost time, passing 50 other kids. He finished 211th out of 261 runners, but was greeted like a winner: Mark's coach and teammates met him at the finish line, to thank him for what he did.
"I didn't feel fatigued or tired," Josh said. "But I definitely feel like I was running on adrenaline."
Mark was taken to a hospital emergency room, where doctors determined he had been accidentally spiked by another runner's shoe. They gave him 20 stitches to close the gash, and placed him in a walking boot to reduce the possibility of the wound re-opening.
"After I got cut, I just kind of fell," Mark said. "It was around a 90-degree corner, and I was just trying to get out of the way of all the other runners. I huddled against a fence, yelling, 'Can I get a transport over here?'"
That's when Josh stopped.
"He just picked me up without saying anything and started carrying me and trying to calm me down. He said, 'It's going to be OK. I'm going to get you to your coaches,'" Mark said, estimating that he was carried about a quarter mile.
"I'm just incredibly grateful for what he did."
Clark said the other runners should not be criticized for not stopping. "In a competitive situation like that, just to register that something is wrong and needs to be addressed is a challenge because you are so focused on how you need to perform to do well," he said.
But the coach said he is not surprised that Josh was the one who came to the injured runner's aid.
"He's a very good kid, always courteous, very compassionate," her said. "He is one of those kids who will hear exactly what you are saying, and act on it."
Josh, who hopes to enroll in an Army or Marines R.O.T.C. program in college, will be honored at a local school board meeting next week. But he is not sure what the fuss is about.
"I really feel I just did the right thing," he said. "Any of my teammates would have done the same thing. It wasn't an act of heroism. It was an act of kindness that I know I needed to accomplish."