'It could have been way worse': Wilmington high school runner leaves race to help distressed opponent

A high school athlete turned hero. He didn’t hesitate to act when his opponent suffered an emergency. He runs cross country and he’s a wrestler, but on that race day, the athlete in him took a back seat to the genuine human being that he is.

"It could have been a way worse situation if I didn’t stop, so it didn’t matter about the race, at all," Zakary Ettien said. "I’m like, there’s definitely a major problem here, I have to do something about this."

16-year-old Concord High School cross-country runner Ettien left a race to help a distressed runner on an opposing team.

"I heard her hyperventilating and then I heard her throw up," Ettien continued.

It happened during a race last week at Brandywine Creek State Park. He says he went into it with a big goal. "I felt good. I thought I was going to PR it, to be honest. Like, personal record."

But, without a second thought, he gave up that chance and had his teammate Drew run ahead to get a coach.

"I picked her up, put her on my shoulders and I started walking her and it was up this hill and I had just run this race, a very hard course. So, my legs were killing me," Ettien explained. "I sit her down and she starts throwing up again."

A coach came and sat with the runner while Zak ran ahead to get additional help. She had passed out, when an ambulance arrived.

"I teared up a little bit," proud mom Sarah Vetri said. "Those parents were like, ‘You should be proud.’"

Proud dad, Michael Vetri, added, "In the summer time, he lifeguards, so him reacting that way in that situation is what I’d expect for him to do."

Concord High School Principal Mark Mayer posted about the event in a weekly message to parents.

"I start with, ‘This is your proud principal,’ every time. It’s my little thing. And, Zakary certainly made me very, very proud," Mayer said.

Zak says the ultimate gratitude came in a text from the runner he helped save. "Just thanking me for helping her, saying that her family is very grateful. It made me tear up a little bit. So, it was a good text to get."