When Blaine High School (BHS) cross country coach Rachel Karel introduced Tommy Anderson, a member of her team, and Ally Anderson, a student in her Spanish class and yearbook photo editor, she said, “Ally, Tom. Tom, Ally. You made each other famous.”
In a case of being in the right place at the right time, Ally captured dramatic photos of Tommy Anderson stopping when he saw an Irondale High School runner laying on the ground, reaching down to help him up and then running with his competitor’s arm draped around his neck. This happened during the Blaine Invitational Oct. 4 at Majestic Oaks.
A senior who loves running and would be in cross country if she weren’t in soccer, Ally had never been to a cross country meet before. The long-time photographer, whose parents are both photographers, said she was flustered when she got to the meet because she wasn’t sure where to go. She ended up just following the crowd of spectators.
Ally was far away when she saw the Irondale runner fall. Some runners ran past the fallen competitor when all of a sudden she saw someone stop to pick him up.
“Then I realized it was a Blaine runner so I got closer,” she said. “It was very heartwarming; I knew the photos would tell an amazing story.”
As soon as she saw the photos, Ally knew they were special. Ally’s parents loved the photos and asked her to send them to Shannon Garrety, BHS athletic director. Karel posted them on Twitter and they went viral. Tommy’s grandmother sent them to KARE-11 which featured Ally’s photos on its website and came to BHS to interview Tom and Karel.
“Tom didn’t do this for the attention; it was just an act of kindness,” Ally said. “It’s really cool people know what he did.”
The day of the Blaine Invitational, Tommy, a junior and three-year member of the cross country team, had a goal of beating his best personal time. But as he rounded the corner at the two-mile mark he saw the Irondale runner lying on the ground.
“I ran up to him to see if he was OK,” Tom said. “I helped him up and tried to get him to start running again. I had him put his arm around my shoulder and I carried him for about a half mile.”
Because runners who assist other runners can be disqualified, adults instructed Tommy to stop helping the Irondale runner. The runner, who had hurt his knee, was eventually able to run on his own, crossing the finish line shortly after Tommy.
While Tommy did not earn his personal best running time that day, he showed true character and compassion. Tom had no idea the incident was being photographed and thinks Ally’s photos are really good. He said his mother, Natalie Anderson, a staff member at River Trail Learning Center, who is a photographer with high standards, was also impressed with Ally’s work.
In her first year as head coach of the cross country team, Karel saw the Irondale runner go down and then Tommy reaching down to help him up. Though cross country running is something of an individual sport, Karel works hard to emphasize the team aspect. The group’s mission statement includes the goal of developing young men and women of character.
“I was really proud of Tom for helping someone else even though he knew it would hurt his race,” Karel said. “Not every kid is going to make a choice like that but in a sport like cross country that’s what we do – we take care of each other.
“As we’ve gone through the season we’ve talked about supporting each other and in this case that carried over to the competition. What Tom did speaks for itself.”