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South Valley Journal

Riverton cross country teammates honored during Holiday Heroes 5K

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● By Jennifer Gardiner

Sean Rausch and Blake Lewis were honored at the Holiday Heroes 5K. (Photo courtesy: Angela Meine)

The picture of a Riverton High cross country runner carrying his injured teammate across the finish line gained global attention. The story behind it was inspiring, and the two were recently honored during the Holiday Heroes 5K held Nov. 11. 

It all started during the Utah 6A state cross country championships when Riverton High School junior Blake Lewis, just 200 meters from the finish line, broke his tibia.  

“It was super painful when my leg broke, and it was excruciating pain,” Blake said. “At first, it was really hard mentally because I knew immediately that my season was over.”

Team captain Sean Rausch, a senior running in his final state-level race, stopped and picked up his friend and carried Blake on his back right up to the finish line. 

“I was not surprised that Sean did that for me; we have been through a lot together, and when you’ve been through that much you’re not surprised that someone would do that much for you, especially Sean,” Blake said. “I would do the same thing for him in a heartbeat.” 

According to a rule outlawing assisting runners during the race, both runners were disqualified. But Sean says it was still an easy decision to make. 

“When I saw Blake on the ground during the race, it was very shocking, and I knew something was seriously wrong, so I stopped, and he told me he broke his leg,” Sean said. “I Immediately knew what had to be done, so I put him on my back and told him that we are a family, we are a team, and we are ‘all in,’ which was our team’s motto for the year.”

Sean said he is very shocked on how everyone around the world has reacted. 

“In my eyes, I just did a small and simple act of kindness, and so many people have been touched, and it still continues to inspire people all over the globe,” Sean said. “I hope that people realize I just did the right thing, and I feel like everyone has the opportunity to do the right thing every day in their lives.” 

Riverton High cross country coach Chase Englestead said it is really nice to see an athlete be so selfless. 

“As part of our team culture we try to emphasize that the best athletes need to be great people first,” he said. “We also want to win, but we feel that the attributes developed in the process to our goals is the most important win. I am super proud of Sean for being there for his teammate and representing his family, our school and our program so well.”

Sean and Blake’s story has touched the world and has been published more than 100 times, including in all major media outlets in Utah, a growing number of national news and sports stations, and throughout the world in countries such as Australia, Argentina, Korea, Japan and more.

Sean’s mom, Jennifer Rausch, said her son has been running cross country for years, following in the footsteps of his older brother Courtland. 

“The sacrifice to become an extraordinary runner has had him arise each morning except Sundays and run off to meet his team,” Jennifer said. “Sean has run continuously even in the offseason to keep his competitive edge.”

Jennifer said they grew concerned about their son at the end of the race when other runners had already crossed the finish line but her son had not. 

“Finally, we could see the last two Riverton runners far off in the distance and could tell one of them was in distress,” Jennifer said. “As the runners got closer, we could see the injured runner was not Sean but Blake. I have never been so proud of my son; he really showed that he valued every one of his team members and was not going to finish without Blake for he was his brother.”

Sean and Blake never expected their story to go as far but believe their story stood out as something good and unique in a world where so many bad things are happening. 

Blake is recovering, with plans to start running again in the spring. He hopes to be a part of the team next year.

Both Sean and Blake were honored during the annual Riverton City and Unified Police Department Holiday Heroes 5K and 1-Mile run. The two were recognized by Riverton City Mayor Bill Applegarth during a special presentation at the starting line.