At a steeplechase event earlier this season, Baldwinsville runner Solomon Holden-Betts served as a pace-setter for his teammates. He had already set a qualifying time for sectionals, but several of his teammates hadn’t.
Suddenly, one of Holden-Betts’ teammates struck a steeple with their leg, falling down and seriously damaging their hopes for a time that could qualify for sectionals. Holden-Betts doubted his teammate would be able to recover, especially mentally, on their own. So he slowed down, helped his teammate up, and guided them back into the race.
The duo flew past the rest of the field. Holden-Betts’ teammate won the race and qualified for sectionals. Holden-Betts finished second.
Displays of sportsmanship like this have become the regular for Holden-Betts, his coaches say. At the All-CNY awards Thursday, Holden-Betts was honored with the sportsmanship award.
As a team leader and one of the top runners for Baldwinsville’s track and cross country teams, Holden-Betts is well known for putting in extra effort to help out everyone from his teammates to his opponents. On the track, the junior excelled this spring, culminating in a fifth-place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the New York State Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 11.
“It’s not always going to be about performing,” Holden-Betts said after receiving the award, “It’s about helping others perform.”
The youngest of four siblings, Holden-Betts has been known for helping others for as long as his father Bob can remember. When he was little, his mother even dubbed him the “please and thank you kid.”
As his older siblings began running for Baldwinsville, Holden-Betts began sneaking into the infield of the track during races to yell encouragement at the runners. Even now, in races that he’s not running in, Holden-Betts’ coaches say he is a constant presence in the infield, sprinting from corner to corner to cheer on his teammates. Holden-Betts said he makes sure to pay special attention to the runners near the back of the field because they often don’t have many people cheering for them.
Holden-Betts’ motivational tactics extend far beyond the infield of the track. In practice this outdoor season, he created an award for the Bees’ distance runner of the week. He nominated runners each week and presented the winner with a toy race car as a trophy.
“It just got them so motivated to run a little bit harder,” one of his coaches, Barb Ross, said.
The Baldwinsville cross country and track teams also count on Holden-Betts to deliver motivational speeches before every race. His father said he often works on the speeches days in advance.
“Motivational speeches are always something that have run through me,” Holden-Betts said. “It’s good to rehearse it in the shower and then put it on in front of the people right before the race.”
And as soon as Holden-Betts finishes the race, he waits at the finish line to congratulate each runner and shake their hand as they cross. He said he picked up the practice from a senior on the track team when he was a freshman.
Even in defeat, Holden-Betts’ coaches lauded him for being gracious to his opponents. After a tough loss to powerhouse team Fayetteville-Manlius during the cross country season, Holden-Betts’s father spotted him congratulating his opponents well after the race.
After the race is done, Holden-Betts continues to be an exemplary team leader, his coaches say. Every time he gets off the bus, he thanks the bus driver for the ride. He said his work in jobs such as picking up trash at the New York State Fair made him appreciate the little jobs that go unnoticed and unthanked.
With another year left in his high school career, Holden-Betts’ teammates can count on him for more encouragement from the infield, more handshakes and more race car trophies.
“He’s very motivated to motivate others,” his father said.