A cross-country runner was knocked off his feet by a deer Saturday during an NCAA regional race at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, and the collision was captured on video.
Justin DeLuzio, a Gwynedd Mercy senior, was running in an 8k race on the DeSales race route just after noon when at least 10 deer ran into a line of runners from their left, and one of them hit him.
"Watch out for the deer!" someone yelled as two deer passed DeLuzio before the third one rammed his stomach and flipped him to the ground. At least seven more deer followed but missed the other runners.
Teammate Matt French stopped to help DeLuzio back up and then ran with him over the four remaining miles to make sure he wasn't seriously hurt, according to Gynedd Griffins website.
The team said DeLuzio was sore and badly bruised but OK.
Justin's story is making the rounds: https://t.co/v8bzZjTF8g— GwyneddSports (@GwyneddSports) November 17, 2016
As DeLuzio told Fox Sports, he heard the warning yells but it all happened too fast for him to have time to process and react.
“Someone yelled, and I caught a glimpse of the deer, and I ... I just didn’t expect it,” DeLuzio says. “It just flipped me end over end.
“I sat there in disbelief, I wasn’t quite sure what had happened,’” DeLuzio said. “Part of me was like ‘This is your last race! Get up!’ while the other part like ‘I just got hit by a deer! Take a breath and acknowledge what just happened!’”
DeLuzio ended up finishing with a time of of 31 minutes and 16 seconds, something he told Fox Sports he would not have been able to accomplish without the selfless assist by French and his other teammates.
“French, he’s a senior like me,” DeLuzio said. “It was his last cross-country race, too. And he sacrificed his potential best time of the season for me ... we have five guys on our team, and they were all there for me when this weird thing happened."
Eric Bologa, part of the cross-country team of Frostburg State University in Maryland, was taking video of the race when the deer galloped toward the runners from an open field.
"I was recording my runners and they all had passed and the deer came running out of the woods," Bologa said. "So I pulled up my phone and next thing I knew they collided. We ran over to see if he was all right and he just kept on running."
Bologa posted the video on his Facebook page with an introductory line, "Who says Cross Country isn't a contact sport?"
The DeSales event was the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Cross Country Championships. The Gwynedd team finished 46th out of 52 schools taking part.
Kevin Clark, the Gywnedd head coach, said his runners could have finished much higher had the deer crash not slowed the team. The Johns Hopkins team won the day.
In the end, though, DeLuzio and the Griffins were mostly thankful that the rare contact play in cross country did not result in any serious injuries.
“I would definitely say there’s relatively low risk in future deer-related injuries in cross-country,” DeLuzio said to Fox Sports. “I’m just really fortunate for how it did happen. It could’ve been so much worse.”