After winner DQ'd, rest of field shows gesture of sportsmanship

Updated: May 24, 2008, 5:30 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Bellarmine Prep senior Nicole Cochran should have been celebrating her successful defense of the Class 4A girls 3,200-meter title at the Star Track XXVI meet, Washington's state high school track and field championships.

Instead, there was controversy, a protest, and then -- an ultimate act of generosity and sportsmanship.

Cochran, who is attending Harvard this fall, had crossed the finish line first with a personal-best time of 10 minutes, 36 seconds in Friday's meet. But minutes later, according to the News Tribune of Tacoma, meet officials notified Bellarmine Prep's coach, Matt Ellis, that Cochran was disqualified.

According to the News Tribune, officials ruled that Cochran had taken three consecutive steps on the inside line along the far curve on the next-to-last lap of the race, which is when she had made her move to take the lead and break free of the pack.

It is a violation that results in disqualification.

"There's not really much I can do," Cochran told the Tri-City Herald. "We tried to appeal it. It's very unfortunate, but sometimes it's what you get dealt."

Shadle Park (Spokane) High School's Andrea Nelson, who finished in 10:40.04, was declared the winner.

The awards ceremony took place, then Nelson got off the awards stand, walked over to Cochran, removed the first-place medal from around her neck and draped it over Cochran's.

"It's your medal," Nelson said to her, the Tri-City Herald reported. "You're the state champion."

The rest of the top eight finishers then held an impromptu ceremony of their own. Exchanging their medals -- Nelson received the second-place medal, Sarah Lord of Redmond High School took the third-place medal, and so on.

"That's not how you win state," Nelson said. "She totally deserves it. She crushed everybody."