MARQUETTE, Mich. – The NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct has selected Northern Michigan University cross country runner Jaylee Brown as one of three recipients of the NCAA Student-Athlete Sportsmanship Award.
Brown was honored for helping an opposing runner finish the race after she had fallen on the course at last year's Roy Griak Invitational cross country meet hosted by the University of Minnesota.
"I am ecstatic and grateful to have received such a phenomenal award," said Brown. "I hope that hearing about this award will raise awareness about the importance of sportsmanship, and how it comes into play in athletics and everyday life. An athlete's hard work and dedication to their sport is crucial, but at the end of the day helping others is much more rewarding."
"I wouldn't have received this award without the help and guidance of many influential people. A few of those people are: my parents Bonnie and Jerry Brown, my high school cross country coach Eric Ross, and my current cross country coach Jenny Ryan. These people have made a great impact on my life and on many others through contributions in their communities. I would like to thank the NCAA for recognizing me with such an incredible honor."
Brown, Utah State University's Chari Hawkins and the Harding football team were selected to receive sportsmanship awards out of 444,000 NCAA student-athletes.
"Jaylee embodies everything this award stands for. Her actions speak volumes about her character and serve as an example of the virtues that administrators and coaches everywhere hope to foster in their student-athletes," said NMU Director of Athletics Forrest Karr. "Jaylee's selfless devotion to others is an inspiration to us all."
When she heard of the news about her student-athlete, Ryan said, "This is very exciting news for Jaylee and our team. Jaylee is well deserving of this award as she exemplifies what sportsmanship is every day as a student-athlete here at NMU. She is a role model to her teammates and has a positive influence on everyone around her. I am so proud of her."
At the Roy Griak on Sept. 28, 2013, Brown, an Onekama, Mich. native, reached the top of the final hill of the cross country race when she noticed a runner sitting on the course.
It was Lillie Koerner of Dordt College, who had fallen and appeared dazed. Many runners ran past Koerner on their way to the finish, but Brown stopped.
"It looked like she was in a lot of pain," Brown said. "I kept looking at her and looking at the finish. As I got closer, (Koerner) looked like she was reaching out."
Brown put Koerner's arm around her shoulder and told her they would finish the race together. After they crossed the finish line, Brown escorted Koerner to the athletic training tent, where she could receive medical treatment.
"It was the right thing to do," Brown said. "For her to come all that way and not be able to finish really
would have broken my heart because I know how hard it is."
"I felt like it was my job to help her," Brown added. "I would hate for that to happen to me. I know I would want someone to help me."
After the race, members of the NMU cross country team told head coach Jenny Ryan what had happened. Ryan shared the story with the NMU community.
After the team returned from the race, there was an influx of support from spectators and other teams competing at the Roy Griak Invitational. After witnessing the act of sportsmanship, one fan said in an email, "What we witnessed is a testament to the character of Jaylee, Coach Ryan and Northern Michigan University. Thank you all for a memory that we will carry with us."
Sportsmanship is one of the founding principles of the NCAA. These awards honor the efforts of student-athletes and administrators who work to protect the integrity of sports and create an even and welcoming playing field for all student-athletes and fans.