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Cross-Country Runner Hit By Deer Mid-Race

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Runners prepare for all kinds of physical discomfort before a race - dehydration, blisters, sunburn. Not a whole lot of prep goes into getting knocked off your feet by a renegade deer. That is what happened to Justin DeLuzio while running his very last cross-country race of his college career last Saturday. He's a senior at Gwynedd Mercy University. He joins us now on the line. Justin, thanks for being with us.

JUSTIN DELUZIO: Oh, thank you so much, Rachel. I really appreciate the opportunity to share my story and get some knowledge for the sport and for our program.

MARTIN: So, yes, share your story, Justin. You're about a mile into your race when a pack of deer crossed the course. And what happened?

DELUZIO: Yeah, as you said, I'm about a mile in, and I can hear someone shout - watch out for that deer.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

DELUZIO: I suddenly turn my head left a little bit. And before I know it, my legs are in the air, and my back was on the ground. And he ended up getting me pretty good. I got to give him credit (laughter).

MARTIN: So you fall, and the deer run away. What did you do? You just got up and kept running?

DELUZIO: (Laughter) Well, not quite right away. I actually, you know - I sat there a little bit, not so much being hurt, but more so just a little confused as to what actually happened. And I had to acknowledge the likely - the unlikelihood of it occurring. I'm actually studying to become an actuary, which is essentially a person who uses numbers and statistics to assess risk. And that whole time on the ground, I could not have foreseen or calculated the odds of this happening.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

DELUZIO: So I'm - you know, I'm sitting on the ground. And then my teammate Matt French, who's a fellow senior - I've known him since my freshman year. He was a little bit behind me at the time. He helps me up, and he essentially runs the whole race with me. He could have run a faster time, but he decides to run with me. And, you know, we're able to finish the last four miles of it. And I owe him a big part because, you know, I don't think without him, the rest of my teammates, as well as my coaches - you know, that was the reason I really wanted to finish the race.

MARTIN: So that darn deer - he thwarted your chances of - what? - winning your last cross-country race? Are you mad at that guy?

DELUZIO: (Laughter) Actually, I have no hatred towards the deer at all. I think because of - because of what it's created, you know, around campus, around, you know - around a lot of, you know, sites, such as National Public Radio, it's...

MARTIN: Justin, I have to tell you, I was on the treadmill at the gym, and ESPN was on. All of a sudden, I look up, and there's you getting knocked down by a deer. You are famous now. This deer may have thwarted your race, but he made you a superstar, Justin (laughter).

DELUZIO: Yeah, it's a bit surreal. No resentment to him. Yeah, certainly grateful for everything that's happened. And everyone's been very supportive, so...

MARTIN: Has this - has this taught you anything? Do you have any guidance or advice you could give to others in your sport?

DELUZIO: Well, of course, always be aware of your surroundings because I know that that deer could have done a little bit more damage to me. I was just very, very lucky, very fortunate that, you know, the way hit me and actually that he wasn't - you know, wasn't a bigger deer.

MARTIN: And really, Justin, when you get knocked down, you just got to get back up.

DELUZIO: (Laughter) Very well said, Rachel. Very well said.

MARTIN: Justin DeLuzio - he got knocked down by a deer in his last college cross-country race, but managed to finish. Hey, Justin, thank you so much for talking with us.

DELUZIO: Rachel, thank you so much. I hope you have a great day.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEER ON THE LOOSE")

BEN HOFFMAN: (Singing) Deer on the loose. Deer on the loose. Tonight, my dear, you're going to be on the news. Deer on the loose.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Oh, this is NPR News (laughter). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.