Brady Voss didn't win the state championship or even win a medal. But he is a champion.

Running long distances is never easy.

At the cross country state championship at the Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee Saturday, the warm temperatures and windy conditions made it even more difficult as runners gave their all to beat other competitors and their own personal best times.

One runner, sophomore Mason Hawthorne of Weatherford, was only a few yards from the finish line when he hit his limit. Hawthorne appeared to suffer from multiple cramps and he faltered and fell with the finish line in view. He tried to get back to his feet but was unable.

That’s when Berryhill’s Brady Voss approached. Rather than finishing his race and trying to secure the best position possible, Voss stopped and lifted his opponent to his feet and helped him across the finish line.

As the two walked the final steps of the race, about a dozen runners passed them. Voss, a sophomore, could easily have improved his final standing by racing past his injured opponent. But he never saw that as an option.

“I know how hard it is to finish like that by yourself, especially when you’re hurting,” Voss said. “I couldn’t leave him there.”

Voss wasn’t disappointed that he gave up a chance to place higher in the state championship race. He finished 59th but he would have been in the top 50 if he finished without stopping.

“I wasn’t worried about that,” he said. “I just had to make sure he was okay.”

Obviously, Voss and Hawthorne are great competitors to make it to the state championship.

Brady Voss didn’t win the state championship or even win a medal.

But he is a champion.

His reward is worth more than bragging rights. He can hold his head high. Every race has a winner. Saturday’s 4A championship race had two.

Voss’s act of compassion and kindness was every bit as impressive as the winning time. It was a rare and welcome demonstration of true class.

Congratulations, Brady. Thank you for the reminder that competitors are more important than the competition.