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A matter of manners

Standing watch as the Class 2A boys' discus finalists warmed up, I sneezed.

"Bless you," someone replied.

That someone: American Heritage senior Cornell Sneed, who was minutes away from trying to justify his No. 1 seed -- against friendly Broward rival Jeff Pelage -- and who, at that point, had no idea who I was.

Later, speaking to reporters after being honored at the podium for his second-place finish (Pelage edged him by two feet), Sneed was happy, congratulatory toward his opponent, and surprised at his success.

He even called us "sir" and "ma'am."

Bless you? Sir and ma'am? Was this really a high-level athlete?

Of course, one might just chalk it up to Sneed being Sneed. One of his potential college choices is West Point, after all (the other is East Tennessee State, home to throwing guru Meg Stone). Also Sneed -- not a qualifier in shot put -- spent some time coaching up Pace's DeAndre Johnson between Johnson's shot put throws.

But in watching (and talking to) Pelage, Sneed clearly wasn't the lone Saturday thrower who brought the term "good kid" to mind.

Try this: When Pelage obliterated the field with his first shot put toss (56 feet, 3 1/4 inches), he immediately told the other seven finalists to keep their heads up -- in no way meaning it as a taunt.

Oh, and Pelage is headed to Boston University on a scholarship in trash-talking's favorite sport, basketball.

Apparently, throwing is a little bit different.

"We support each other," Pelage said. "Somebody gets a good throw, you say, 'Good throw.' You respect their throw. You don't want to disrespect them and say, 'Oh, lucky.' You don't say stuff like that. ... It's about improvement. Everyone's working. Everyone made it here for some reason. Nothing's just lucky. They got out here for some reason."

Pelage and Sneed included. Guess nice guys can finish first (and second, if they're going head-to-head).

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

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