A photo finish for Edison runner Zach Kibler

Jason Werling
Sep 19, 2012


Zach Kibler isn't your average junior high cross country runner. Not every runner finishes a race with a smiling face and an escort of 20 other runners.

The Erie County Championships cross country meet was at Osborn Park Tuesday afternoon and I photographed the varsity team races. (Photos can be found HERE.) When I returned to the paper Register sports writer emeritus Butch Wagner asked me if I had any photos of the big finish to the race and I thought he meant the photo finish of the Perkins/Huron runners legging out the final few yards.

Then he mentioned the junior high race and how the Perkins and Edison teams escorted a young runner to the finish line and what a great moment it was. Photographers do not like to hear about great moments that they missed, but I looked into it and luckily there were photos taken.

The Perkins and Edison teams ran with Kibler during his final 400 meters, an inspiring sight to those who were there and still inspiring in the photo snapped above.

But there's a little more to the story. I recognized the name Zachary Kibler from a story we did about 9 years ago as this cute, always-smiling, 3-year-old with Down syndrome was being mainstreamed into the Berlin-Milan school district. You couldn't stop him on the playground then and it looks like you can't stop him on the race course now. I've added a couple photos of Zach from 2003 above.

Jason Howland wrote a letter to the editor and we will find a place for his words an upcoming edition of the Register, but here's a sneak peek...

Dear Mr. Westerhold,

In light of the recent tragedies and sad news plaguing Sandusky news, I found last night’s display of sportsmanship and compassion by the Briar Middle School boys Cross Country team at the Erie County XC Championships, uplifting and encouraging.

Zach Kibler, a member of Edison Jr High School’s XC team with Down’s Syndrome, has been inspiring runners along the course this year. I have watched his infectious smile cross the line at the Tiffin XC Carnival and the Galion XC Festival, to the cheers of the crowd gathered at the finish, but watching Perkins boys as they raced to the corner of Osborne Park to run the last 400 meters with Zach gave me faith that there is, not only good in our community, but there is GREATNESS.

I am incredibly proud of these young men (and the whole team, lest I forget the young women) for the support they have shown each other over the last four months of conditioning and practice. Last night was one of the classiest, most moving moments I have witnessed in sport.

To coaches Jen Galloway and Tammie Brenton, you have done an amazing job, fostering an environment where mutual respect and empathy are just as important as having fun. Keep up the great work! To all the parents, I hope you are as proud of your kids, as I am of mine!

And lastly, to Zach… keep on running and keep on smiling!


Jason Howland


Seen it All

What a truly awesome story!!  Great letter to the editor as well, Mr Howland! 

Mom of 2 boys

 This is AWESOME!! Thank you for such an inspiring, heartfelt story. 

And to the kids that ran with Zach, you are our future and you make us very proud.



Erie Countian

 Congrats to Zach and all his friends on the Edison and Perkins teams! This story made my day!


Jen Galloway is an awesome coach--she treats all her kids as if they were her own!


Jason, you should send this story and photos to ESPN's Sportscenter.

Nice story !  


Makes me cry and laugh at the same time.  Makes me think of the line Dolly Parton says in Steel Magnolias.  "Laugther through tears is my favorite emotion.""   I know exactly what she means. 


Great stoy and pictures. 

Seen it All

GREAT analogy wiredmama...... I did the same thing reading this story. And that is by far one of my all time favorite movies!  I'm guessing we have MORE in common than not.. bury the hatchet?  <extending a hand>

Pirate Mom

 With all of the horror going on landing on the front of the Sandusky Register, this is a top of the fold story.  I watched the high school kids run and am sad I missed the junior high race and this beautiful, mature, genuine gesture by our area's finest kids.  I love that Zach and his peers are news and hope that we all find a reason to believe in our future...our kids.  Hats off to the coaches and parents who have had a major hand in how these young people are being raised.  Set the bar high and they will meet and exceed our exectations.