Wilton’s Cote aids Danbury runner at FCIACs

Photo of Ryan Lacey

The motto at Camp Belknap is “God first, the other fellow second, and myself last.”

Wilton junior Davis Cote, who spends his summers in a leadership role at the New Hampshire camp, exemplified that belief in a major way when a rival runner collapsed steps in front of him near the end of Tuesday’s FCIAC boys cross country championship meet.

Rather than keep running, Cote chose to stop, turn around, and help Danbury senior Aidan Byrne to his feet before dragging Byrne across the finish line.

“It’s about a 200-meter straightaway to end the race, and I saw [Byrne] and he looked out of it,” Cote said Wednesday. “He was limping and stumbling, and he eventually collapsed right next to me. Without really thinking I just picked him up. It was just an in-the-moment thing.”

The race was going to plan for Byrne for most of the five-kilometer journey through Waveny Park in New Canaan. He was in position for a potential top-10 finish heading into the final stretch. But 100 meters from the end, Byrne gave way and fell to the ground. Cote provided the assist and the two finished the race.

“It was a great act of sportsmanship and humanity,” Danbury coach Rob Murray said. “We ask society to try to be there for one another, but especially in a competitive arena such as sports that doesn’t cross your mind. It did for [Cote] and it shows a lot of character; he just cared about someone else finishing and he sacrificed his place to help [Byrne].”

Cote — who said he wasn’t having his best race — gave up about 10 spots with the gesture, a not-so-insignificant amount for a race that competitors wait all season for. In previous years, runners aiding one another would have been disqualified.

“I would say in running particularly, as a sport, you have so much respect for the other athletes,” Cote said. “You know how much effort and hard work goes into it during the season. I know Aidan is a great athlete and runner; he probably trained through [the entire year]. Everyone deserves to finish the race.”

Following the race, Cote checked on Byrne and received embraces from other Danbury runners. Officially, Byrne finished in 55th place (18:05) while Cote was 60th (18:11). Byrne spent the night in the hospital, but felt better Wednesday and was scheduled to be sent home.

“When I saw my guys shaking hands with [Cote], saying thank you, I figured they knew him or were friends,” said Murray, who was on a different part of the course and didn’t see Byrne fall. “[Cote] came over and made sure Aidan was all right.”