Injured High School Track Star Crawls to Finish Line for Team, Coach

Holland Reynolds, 16, melted hearts by finishing the race on her knees.

December 2, 2010, 4:58 PM

Dec. 2, 2010— -- The race was supposed to have been a moment of glory for the top runner at a northern California high school and her teammates.

But instead of crossing the finish line in a flash at the head of the pack -- a finish that would have all but guaranteed the team another state championship -- 16-year-old junior Holland Reynolds collapsed just feet from that line and stunned onlookers by stubbornly crawling to the end, despite being in obvious pain.

The video of her excruciating finish has gone viral, propelling Reynolds' status to something of a high school hero -- she finished the race fast enough to still secure the state championship for her team, and honoring the team's coach who is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

"I just kept on telling myself, 'I need to finish and I need to cross the line,'" Reynolds said. "I don't remember falling, but then I remember crawling across the line."

Reynolds, one of University High School's best runners since she was a freshman, said that she felt good going into the 3.1- mile race, held last weekend.

"By the 2 1/2 mile mark I really didn't feel as great as I should have," she said. "My leg started to feel really, really heavy. I was going to try and get right up behind the girl in first place, but I felt like I couldn't run fast anymore."

Video of the race shows Reynolds slowing to a stop, then staggering for a bit before collapsing into the grass on the side of the track.

A race official, immediately at her side, advised her that if she wanted to finish the race -- the finish line just mere feet in front of her -- she could crawl enough to get one foot over the line. But if she received assistance, she'd be disqualified and the points would not count toward her team's total.

Reynolds kept crawling. As soon as her foot went over the finish line she was scooped up and loaded into an ambulance. Though blood tests are still out, Reynolds said she was diagnosed with dehydration and light hypothermia after running in the cold, damp weather.

Coach Jim Tracy, who used to be an athlete himself before the degenerative disease robbed him of the ability to run, said he knew something was wrong when the first few runners crossed the finish line without Reynolds. He looked further back and saw her staggering.

"I called out to her. I said, 'Holland are you all right?'' Tracy said. "She just kept going -- staggering and staggering."

Top-Rated Athlete's Crawl to the Finish Inspires Coach, Team

The crowd, which had been roaring with cheers, he said, fell quiet.

Reynolds said that as the pain grew worse, she had a feeling that she was still running, even though the video showed she had clearly slowed to an unsteady walk.

"I remember just looking up and seeing Jim," she said.

And when she fell, "I thought, well it's over for her," Tracy said.

But he watched her keep going and said he was in a "complete state of shock" as she crawled across the finish line.

Her team and coach gathered around as she lay in the ambulance, as emergency workers rushed to calm her breathing and hook her up to IV fluids.

Stunned, Tracy checked his numbers -- the times of all the runners he had logged during that day's meet-- and realized they had come out ahead.

"We won," he said. "And it was a great feeling."

Tracy said that despite his illness, his track team has rallied around not only him, but his unwavering goal -- "We must go for the win."

And with the season over, both are looking forward to next year.

Reynolds said she hopes to help her team earn one more championship in her senior year, and then go on to run in college.

University High School has set up a trust fund for Jim Tracy to help with medical bills and living expenses as he battles ALS. Checks payable to the "Jim Tracy Special Needs Trust" can be sent to University High School, 3065 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA 94115. Click HERE to find out more about the effort.

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