Cross country runner helps competitor cross finish line

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Luke Whitmore (right) helps cross country competitor, Walker Thomas (left), cross the finish line at the FHSAA State Championships.
(Courtesy: Cedric Gilette, Onepointfourphotography)

It was the Florida High School Cross Country State Finals, and 16-year-old Luke Whitmore had his heart set on succeeding.

He and students from all across the state had made their way to Apalachee Regional Park for the meet, but this Plant City High School student had one main goal: Beat Walker Thomas, a rival from another Bay area school.

“I knew that he really wanted to beat the Plant runners. They’ve run against each other all season long,” said Plant City High School Principal Susan Sullivan.

And as Luke neared the finish line, he learned he had his chance to do just that. He spotted Thomas through the crowd, winded, and struggling to walk.

But rather than leave Walker in the dust, Luke did something incredible. He took his competitor under his arm, guided him to the finish line and helped him across.

“I saw him on the ground, and I was just going to cheer him on, but then he was just not getting up,” said Luke. “I didn’t really think twice about picking him up, so we finished the race together, and that’s it.”

Cedric Gillette, a photographer working the race, said the moment inspired him.

“I was just trying to take pictures of everyone and then I saw them coming down the hill,” said Cedric. “I thought, ‘Oh wow. This is incredible- him helping a kid who’s not even on his team to finish. I have to capture this moment’.”

What Luke did may surprise many, but those who know him say acts of kindness like this one are Luke’s standard.

“He’s a great kid, and his heart is huge,” said Sullivan. “He’s a young man who’s not only a scholar and an athlete, but a man with integrity and great character.”

Luke ended up finishing 162nd in the Class 4A meet, but he’s a winner in the eyes of his peers...and his competitors.