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The decade in sportsmanship

Here are 10 memorable acts of sportsmanship from the 2000s.

1.Central Washington softball team; April 26, 2008In the top of the second inning, Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky hit a pitch over the left field fence with two runners on against Central Washington, for whom a loss would mean elimination from a possible NCAA Division II playoff berth. But when Tucholsky rounded first base, she accidentally missed the bag. As she doubled back to touch it, her cleats stuck in the ground and she tore the ACL in her right knee.

While Tucholsky writhed on the ground in pain, the umpires consulted the rule book and declared that if any of her teammates aided her around the bases, she would be called out. Central Washington's senior first baseman, Mallory Holtman, her school's career leader in homers who was facing her final collegiate game if her team were to lose, had an idea: She would help her opponent round the bases. Holtman locked eyes with shortstop Liz Wallace and the two of them picked up Tucholsky and carried her, dipping the stricken runner at each base so she could touch the bag and complete the home run that she had rightfully earned.

2. Texas A&M; September 2005Hurricane Katrina had decimated the Tulane campus in New Orleans, closing the school for the fall semester and threatening to cancel the sports season. Then the calls poured in to Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson, one after another, with offers of help. They came from Louisiana Tech, which hosted Tulane's football team, and from Texas Tech, which housed the baseball and the women's basketball teams. They came from SMU, which invited the golf teams and some of the athletic administration, and from Texas A&M, which took in Tulane's six remaining teams (men's basketball, women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, women's volleyball and women's soccer). The Aggies did more than just accommodate the Green Wave -- they adopted them, granting them access to all athletic facilities, publicizing Tulane's sports schedules and even asking the A&M band to learn Tulane's fight song.

3.Esther Kim; May 20, 2000Best friends and training partners Kim and Kay Poe were to meet in the flyweight final at the U.S. Olympic taekwondo trials, with a berth at the Sydney Games on the line. Poe had dislocated the patella in her left knee in the final seconds of her previous match. In the hour before their final, Kim helped ice Poe's knee. When it was apparent that Poe, the heavy favorite and world ranked No. 1, would not be able to compete, Kim, who was ranked No. 2 in the U.S., forfeited the title match, thereby giving up her own chance at a bid so that her injured friend could go instead. Kim would never qualify for another Olympics.

4.Andrea Nelson and Lyndy Davis; May 23, 2008Nicole Cochran, a senior at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, won the girls' 3,200-meter run at the Washington Class 4A State Track and Field Championship by a margin of 3.05 seconds. However, a judge disqualified her for taking a step outside of her lane on a turn. Though a video replay showed that it was Cochran's teammate who committed the violation, the gold medal was still awarded to the second-place finisher: sophomore Nelson of Spokane's Shadle Park High. But Nelson walked over and draped the gold around Cochran's neck. The third- through eighth-place finishers then exchanged medals accordingly, a move that was hardest for Davis of Monroe High. She was left without a medal of any kind. But the sportsmanship would come full circle when Cochran later finished the 800 meters in -- what else? -- eighth place. Cochran sought out Davis and handed her the medal.

5. Joshua Harter and the Spencerport Rangers; Feb. 15, 2006Greece Athena High in Rochester, N.Y., had a dedicated senior student-manager named Jason McElwain, who has autism. Because of his condition, he had never played a varsity game. A month before Senior Night, his coach, Jim Johnson, called coach Harter of Spencerport and asked if it would be OK if McElwain played for a few minutes of the fourth quarter in their upcoming game. Harter enthusiastically agreed and received a unanimous blessing from his players, who did not defend McElwain at full intensity but did exert enough effort to make it sporting. The rest made national headlines: McElwain sank seven shots in less than four minutes -- six of which were three-pointers -- to score 20 points. Greece Athena thanked their rivals by honoring them with a sportsmanship award at an end-of-the-season banquet.

6. Grapevine Faith; Nov. 7, 2008Grapevine Faith, a small Christian school in suburban Dallas-Fort Worth, was hosting an unusual opponent: Gainesville State School, a maximum-security correctional facility for teenaged male felons. Gainesville plays all of its games on the road, and its students, who arrive in handcuffs, use old equipment. Grapevine Faith's coach, Kris Hogan, created a welcoming environment by splitting his school's fans and cheerleaders into nearly equal groups. When Gainesville's players got off their bus, they were greeted with a 40-yard spirit line and a "Go Tornadoes" banner for them to run through at the end. Their designated "fans" even cheered them by name. Faith won, 33-14, but Gainesville's players raved about their treatment. In the postgame prayer circle, one said, "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank you, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us." The story of this unorthodox home game has inspired others to take action as well.

7. Adam Van Houten; Oct. 15, 2005Mount Gilead High sophomoreVan Houtenshot 144 over two rounds to win the Ohio Division II golf tournament by six strokes. After signing his scorecard, however, Van Houten double-checked his rounds and realized that he had recorded the 10th hole one stroke better than he had actually scored. For Van Houten, this meant that he had had actually defeated the field by five strokes, rather than the six he was credited for. The stroke in question would have no bearing on the competition, only on Van Houten's conscience, so he reported the error even though he knew that a card signed with an incorrect score disqualifies the player. Thus, Van Houten lost the tournament and his state title.

8. Tony Aspholm; Feb. 3, 2009During the 2008-09 season, Minneapolis Southwest high's Libby Ellis, the state's second-ranked Nordic skier, missed several regular-season meets -- enough that she was one short of qualifying for Minnesota's sectional and state competitions. Ellis was competing in an international competition in Norway when her coach, James Dundon, received a call from the state association declaring that she would be ineligible. To restore her eligibility, Dundon called Aspholm, the coach of rival Minneapolis South High School. Aspholm realized that the sporting thing to do would be to help his crosstown competitor, and although South had already competed in its own sectional meet earlier in the day, he agreed to a hastily scheduled, impromptu race at 10:30 p.m. -- in subzero weather. Ellis landed in the Twin Cities at 9:30 and drove directly to the course at Theodore Wirth Park. She not only won, but took the Section 6 title the next morning. In the spirit of their friendly competition, the two schools are now planning an annual night race.

9. Darius McNeal and the DeKalb Barbs; Feb. 7, 2009The basketball teams at Milwaukee Madison (Wisc.) and DeKalb (Ill.) high schools were scheduled to meet, but earlier that day Madison's senior captain, Johntel Franklin, lost his mother to cancer. Franklin's coach, Aaron Womack Jr., planned to cancel the game, but Franklin insisted that his team play,and appeared at the gym in the second quarter, directly from the hospital. Womack called timeout so his players could greet their grieving teammate. Franklin asked if he could play, but his name and uniform number had not been entered into the scorer's book. Doing so would cost his team a technical foul. DeKalb asked the referees to overlook the rule, but they insisted on following the book. DeKalb's coach, Dave Rohlman, asked for a volunteer to take the free throws. McNeal shot the ball two feet. His second shot didn't go even that far. Madison's players and the crowd stood and applauded. Once the game resumed, Franklin scored 10 points and helped Madison to a 62-47 win. "I did it for the guy who lost his mom," McNeal told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It was the right thing to do."

10.Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player; Nov. 23, 2003After swapping three-point leads over the course of three days, the American and International teams ended the 2003 Presidents Cup tied at 17-all, a remarkable feat considering the scope of competition and individual matches. The world's top two players, Tiger Woods (U.S.) and Ernie Els (Internationals), engaged in a sudden-death, single-hole playoff. It, too, ended in a tie. Both players parred the second sudden-death hole. And then the third. With darkness descending on South Africa's Links at Fancourt, the two captains, Nicklaus and Player, struck a surprising accord: a tie. "Everybody's comfortable that this is the most unbelievable event the game has ever seen," Nicklaus told the commissioner. "We should share the Cup." In the spirit of amity and mutual respect, the two sides decided to compete no more.

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