In the latest NCAA regional cross-country race, 21-year-old Justin DeLuzio wasn’t just competing with other runners—he was also battling the forces of Mother Nature.
As a member of Gwynedd Mercy University’s cross-country team, DeLuzio has to be aware of the sport’s risks, like rolling an ankle or blowing out a knee, and take proper precautions to avoid accidents. But he never could have predicted what would nearly take him out of Pennsylvania’s Mideast Regional Championships on Saturday. He and the other runners were only a mile into the race when a deer knocked him right off his feet.
The incident was captured on video by one of the other teams’ runners. In the video, you can hear someone yell, “Watch out for the deer!” But it was too late. The bystander had barely finished shouting when one of the deer collided with DeLuzio.
“It lifted me off the ground,” he told Fox Sports. “I turned to my left and boom—my feet are in the air.”
A little rattled, he sat in the field for a few minutes trying to collect himself.
“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.”
It’s not the type of decision that anyone expects to make in their lifetime, but DeLuzio decided to carry on with the help of teammate Matt French, who got him back on his feet. With lots of encouragement from the sidelines, the two finished the remaining five miles together.
DeLuzio, who wants to assess risk and work as an actuary when he completes school, told reporters that he still wouldn’t consider whitetail run-ins an issue for cross-country runners.
“I would definitely say there’s a relatively low risk in future deer-related injuries in cross-country,” DeLuzio said.
It’s true, stuff like this doesn’t happen every day. But in Oak Bay, a municipality on Vancouver Island that’s recently made headlines for its out-of-control deer population, the animals have struck cyclists, and on more than one occasion.