Ryder: When last is better than most

Tens of thousands of Facebook users have seen this and other photos of Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Jasmine Kanagy after being published on The Gowrie News’ Facebook page, which has sparked a wave of appreciation for Kanagy and the resilience it takes to finish the race in cross country. (Photo courtesy of Julie Vinsand/The Gowrie News)
Jake Ryder
The Grundy Register

Julie Vinsand got quite the surprise when she asked her Facebook followers for help forwarding along photos of Jasmine Kanagy, a junior on the Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck girls cross country team.

Using the power of social media and community journalism, Vinsand was able to get connected with Jasmine and the Kanagy family, while the Facebook post with Jasmine's photos has taken on a life of its own, and not just among the GC/G-R community, but among many Facebook users that can identify with the determination of runners like Kanagy to finish, even as the last-place runner in miserable conditions at Eagle Grove Country Club last Thursday.

(Full disclosure: Jasmine works with my wife, Cali, in Grundy Center, which is how I became aware of this Facebook post.)

Vinsand is a co-editor and co-publisher of The Gowrie News, a weekly newspaper based in Southeast Valley's school district. Julie shares duties with her husband, Rick; the couple took over the paper three years ago, and split time with the paper while they also volunteer as EMTs in the local ambulance service and deliver meals to the elderly in the community. Aside from the Vinsands, they employ a writer and the graphic designer that handled artwork for magazines they had published in the past.

Julie was taking photos of Southeast Valley girls and boys runners at the state-qualifying meet in Eagle Grove last Thursday, and was about to leave to catch photos of the Jaguar girls after they had finished their race.

Before Julie could leave, a girl grabbed her by the arm and implored her to stay for the final runner.

The girl, Julie would later learn, was Jasmine Kanagy's sister, Marissa, who was watching her sister run in the only opportunity Marissa would get to see Jasmine compete this season; Julie agreed and the two cheered on Jasmine as the GC/G-R runner stayed a few steps ahead of the pace-setting golf cart and Julie snapped a couple pictures of Jasmine's run to the finish.

Jasmine had been a recent addition to GC/G-R's varsity lineup after injuries and other issues necessitated Jasmine step up from the JV ranks.

Jasmine finished last, but shoot, that's certainly better than most of us could do, even in conditions better than Thursday's – near-freezing temps, biting winds, on-and-off misting rain and the course's considerably-large hills.

Marissa and Julie had shared a moment, but not contact information. Julie turned to the Gowrie News Facebook community and the resulting signal boost from the Facebook post only needed 10 hours to reach the Kanagy family.

According to Facebook's stats, the post had reached nearly 25,000 people in the first 48 hours, and that number is nearing 50,000 as of Monday afternoon.

Fort Dodge Parks & Rec shared the photos in anticipation of this weekend's state meet at Lakeside Golf Course: "Congrats to everyone who commits to finishing the race."

Others shared their own stories of being in Jasmine's place, or having a child or relative in that position, and the power of cross country to keep pushing with encouragement from those along the track.

"I think it was really cool how everyone was supportive of last-place runners," Jasmine said. "It's always very encouraging to see that you have people who do care about you finishing, even if it's last."

While she didn't expect this kind of response, Julie's learned a valuable lesson.

"Now every time I attend a cross country meet, I will make sure I go back to cheer on the last of the runners," she said, "I might not have gotten our girls' pictures at the finish line, but it was well worth it to see Marissa's face when Jasmine ran by."


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