- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 5, 2012

CINCINNATI — A western Ohio high school runner who helped a struggling competitor finish their race is being praised for her sportsmanship and trying to cope with the attention it has sparked.

Meghan Vogel appreciates the accolades but said Tuesday that she is a bit overwhelmed by the praise that has been pouring in since the track meet Saturday in Columbus.

The 17-year-old West Liberty-Salem High School junior was in last place in the 3,200-meter run as she caught up to Arlington High School sophomore Arden McMath, whose body was giving out. Instead of zipping past McMath to avoid the last-place finish, Vogel put McMath’s arm around her shoulders, half-dragging and half-carrying her about 30 meters to the finish line.

Vogel, who pushed McMath over the line before crossing it, has been getting Facebook and Twitter messages and mail from friends and strangers saying she inspired them with her sportsmanship.

“It’s an honor and very humbling,” Vogel said in a telephone interview from her West Liberty home. “I just thought I was doing the right thing, and I think others would have done the same.”

But McMath, 16, of Findlay, said in a telephone interview from her northwestern Ohio home that she is not so sure.

“I really don’t think just everyone would have done that,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe what she did - especially pushing me in front of her - and I’m so grateful.”

Both girls are hazy about the details.

“The last thing I remember was seeing Arden fall and then trying to get her to the finish line,” Vogel said.

McMath remembered feeling like she was “blacking in and out” and falling a few times before Vogel helped her.

Vogel, who won the 1,600-meter race earlier, said she was emotional and tired from that when she began the longer race.

She also felt “a little woozy” afterward and found herself next to McMath in the training room, where the Arlington student was being treated. McMath said her sodium levels apparently were low, but she recovered.

Vogel’s mother, Ann Vogel, is West Liberty-Salem’s track and field coach. Both runners technically should have been disqualified, but the official decided not to make that call, she said. Because they were the last two runners, neither girl scored any points, so team standings weren’t affected.

Mrs. Vogel said she is very proud of her daughter, and the response has been amazing.

“People were coming up to us in tears and hugging both of us after the race,” she said, adding that she was surprised by some negative comments on the Internet and talk radio criticizing her daughter for a lack of competitiveness.

“I can’t believe people would twist an act of kindness like that,” she said.

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