At Robbinsdale Armstrong, call it ‘class country skiing’

Doug Hubred, an assistant Nordic ski coach at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School, could have just silently clapped his hands when skier Ben Chong of St. Louis Park High School broke his pole.

After all, the two schools were in a fight to see which would advance to the state championship and Chong’s troubles might be Hubred’s team’s ticket.

Hubred gave Chong a new pole so he could keep racing, the Star Tribune reports today.

“I’m a middle school teacher, so I work with kids all day long,” Hubred said of his sportsmanship earlier this month. “Sometimes you see a kid having a hard go, and you just need to step in.”

Thanks to Hubred, Chong’s team advanced. Hubred’s did not.

But Hubred said there’s never a bad time to do the right thing.

“I wanted our kids to win not by a technicality but by their performance … So no, I don’t regret it.”

Chong’s family sent him a letter, which was posted on the Minnesota State High School League’s Facebook page.

Dear Doug,

I’ve written this letter to say thank you and to extend my deepest gratitude for your remarkable kindness at the section race Monday. My son Ben is the skier you extended the pole to after his fall around the bend.

I was nervous that morning before the race, but not about whether we would win. Ben had a tough week leading up to the race and I just wanted him to ski a good run without any falls. With marginal weather and snow, I knew it would be a hard course with treacherous terrain.

He had a great first race despite a minor fall at the end. On the second race, I was standing on the sideline when he came around the bend and took that fall. I watched as he struggled to get up and my heart sank. I heard a jeering comment from a woman behind me about counting a skier out and my heart sank further.

When I saw that his pole was broken, I figured that’s the end of it, he’s out. But when I saw a pole extended to him from the sideline, I knew that he could at least finish the race. I am proud of him for giving it his all and finishing.

I had assumed the pole came from one of our coaches and I thought how lucky Ben was that his coach happened to be there.

When I later learned that the pole came from an Armstrong coach, I was in disbelief. I thought about the implications. Here your team was neck and neck with SLP for that second-place spot for state. You could have easily watched like the rest of us, feeling bad for the skier who fell but solidifying your team’s advance to state.

Instead without hesitation, you chose to extend kindness to a kid who at the moment needed a helping hand. I have reflected on your honorable action, your selfless deed, since the culmination of that race. I wondered how many of us would have done the same thing, given the circumstances.

Of course, we’d all like to think we would do the right thing. I would sure hope so, but I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that you did an honorable thing that day which made a difference in a kid’s life, beyond the results of his race. Our family and especially Ben will not forget your kindness.

While it’s great that our boys will be competing at state, it is bittersweet. Your boys earned that spot just as much as the SLP team and I wish they too could have advanced. We overheard some nice comments from your boys after the race, even after experiencing that very tough loss.

Your Nordic team is a great group of kids, clearly a reflection of the culture you have created. I hope they know how lucky they are to have a coach and a role model like you. I wish all of you continued success.

With great thanks and appreciation,

Sue, Alex and Ben Chong.

Hubred asked his son if the Armstrong team was upset with him. They weren’t. Because Doug Hubred is their coach.