Senior decathlete Eric Bostick was dangerously close to not becoming a Baylor Bear. His decision to commit to Baylor was easy, but in the summer before his freshman year, he fell inches from death while trying to save a girl’s life.
On a graduation trip to the British Overseas Territory of Turks and Caicos, located just southeast of The Bahamas, Bostick, his friend, the friend’s family, and a girl named Paige all made the trip to relax after the school year.
At this point, Bostick had not committed to any college track program. He was a district champion in multiple events, including the 200, long jump and the 4×100 and 4×400 relays. He had just finished allof his college visits and was taking the vacation as a time to clear his head and make a decision about where to go to college.
The group made its way to a rock known as Dragon Cay. Named after its long shape, this collection of sharp, pointed volcanic rock was known for its beauty and the view it provides to those who climb it.
The formation was just off of the coast. Its visitors climb up the side that faces the shore, but because of the dangerous shape, have to climb down the side that faces the open ocean.
“We had climbed up to the top to see the view of the coastline,” Bostick said. “We could see for miles at the top of it. It was gorgeous. We could look back in and see the topography of the whole thing. It was really pretty.”
One side of Dragon Cay faces the Atlantic, so waves often get violent. As the group was descending, the waves became rough and attacked the path that they were climbing. At this point, Paige was just below Bostick.
“I see her eyes get big and then a wave hits me in the back and forces me down, almost pulls her off. My friend who was standing behind me falls down, lands, and breaks his collarbone on the sand,” Bostick said. “She is falling, so I have to grab her. I’m trying to pull her back up. Meanwhile, two or three more [waves] hit and every time I had to pull her back up, trying to keep her up, trying to keep her from falling. The last one was too much.”
As the waves continued to assault the rock, one image in particular stands out in Bostick’s memory.
“Her looking back at me crying and saying, ‘Please don’t let go. Please.’ And she kept saying it. ‘Please don’t let go. Please don’t let go.’ And I said, ‘I’m not. I’m not going to let go.’” Bostick said. “I know the moment that she slipped out of my hand, I thought I had failed. I thought, ‘I screwed up. This is it. If I could have only held on longer…’ I just couldn’t. I had hit my limit.”
With fatigue mounting and pain escalating, Bostick had to let go of the rock altogether. He says that it felt like he was up there for an hour. In reality only about 20 seconds had passed.
“I remember as I was falling, I thought, ‘This is probably it.’ I was looking down and it was spikes of volcanic rock. How I missed the spike is beyond me, but I did hit face-first,” Bostick said. “Everything moved in slow motion and I thought I was going to either drown or hit a rock… I thought about my parents. I thought, ‘My parents sent me on this trip. They trusted me not to do anything stupid. We shouldn’t have gone up here.’ I thought about my brothers. I thought, ‘How are my brothers going to take this?’ My older brother was very emotional because he was going through a tough time and I didn’t want him to have to go through this. Thinking back on it, life necessarily didn’t flash before my eyes, but my family and people that were important to me did.”
Bostick fell onto the rocks, but somehow never blacked out. His body was cut up so bad that many people afterwards asked if a shark had attacked him. His face was bloody. His nose was broken. His hands were torn up from holding on to volcanic rock for so long. A piece of volcanic rock was stuck in his ankle and there was a big gash on his knee. If he had continued to lay there, another wave would have hit and dragged him across more volcanic rock, so he had to keep moving.
“I hit the ground, and it kind of dazed me for a second,” Bostick said. “Then somebody said run because another [wave] was coming, so I took off sprinting towards a cliff face and I got tackled into the salt water. Somebody hit me to keep me from running into the cliff because it would hit the rock and kind of spill over, but they told me to run.”
It took two and a half hours to get everyone to the nearest hospital, which was located on the main island. Bostick, his friend and Paige were eventually loaded into a van. Thirty minutes later, they arrived at the dock. After a 45-minute boat ride to the main island, they were loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital, where they spent the next four days.
Because the group immediately left for the hospital, Boctick never got to thank the person that saved him from running into more volcanic rock.
The medical attendants rubbed salve all over Bostick’s body to treat all of the cuts that ran literally from head to toe. Much of his body was then wrapped in bandages. His nose turned out to be broken, but was only treated for cuts. His nose has never healed properly and is still crooked.
In order for his hands to heal, he had to wear gloves and sleep with his elbows at his side and his hands cupped over his body.
“I looked like a corpse,” Bostick said.
The other two, however, were given antibiotics as a precaution to treat their minor cuts, and Bostick’s friend was in a sling to treat his broken collarbone. Doctors also rubbed their wounds with salve as a precautionary measure, but both able to leave the hospital the day they were admitted.
Paige avoided serious injury because Bostick held on to her long enough for someone to run under her and catch her on the sand.
Bostick told his parents about his injuries but left out a lot of details so that they would not worry too much about him.
“They didn’t think it was that bad. I played it down to them,” Bostick said. “I said, ‘Hey, I got into an accident. I’m fine, just a little cut up, but nothing big.’ Then they picked me up when I got home and I was covered with bandages because I had to be in bandages for two weeks. And they were like, ‘Had we known this, we would have flown there.’”
Everyone on the trip remained with Bostick for the duration of his hospital stay.
“They would go and come back to bring me food, but for the most part, they stayed there almost all day,” Bostick said. “I told them to go Jet Ski, but they didn’t want to. They were kind of shell-shocked. They thought, ‘Let’s just get out of here with what we have and hopefully nothing else bad will happen.’”
Bostick committed to Baylor, and the coaches did not know about his injuries until he showed up on campus. While he was recovering back at home, he had MRIs done on his damaged ankle and knee. His knee turned out to be fine, but he needed to stay off of his ankle in order for it to heal properly. Like athletes sometimes do, Bostick continued to train despite the injury.
“That’s how I got my nickname Cliffhanger, from my coach,” Bostick said. “He doesn’t call me Eric. He doesn’t call me Bostick. It’s just Cliffhanger.”
Paige is now a pharmacy student at the University of Texas. She has some permanent scars, but nothing too major. She and Bostick have since fallen out of touch.
In his first year of competing, Bostick’s ankle continued to bother him, but he still performed well.
“I did all right. I went over 6,000 points, which was my goal,” Bostick said. “I did OK in the Big 12’s. I set the school record indoors. It wasn’t a mark that I liked, but it was still a decent mark. All things considered, I think I did pretty decent my freshman year.”
Bostick still competes for Baylor despite a sensitive ankle that will never be completely healthy. He still sees Paige and her very grateful parents once in a while, and they are never modest about thanking him for what he did.
This was not the first time Bostick had the opportunity to save someone’s life. While in middle school, a friend of his crashed a four wheeler into a barbed-wire fence and cut his neck open. Thinking quickly, Bostick loaded his friend onto his four wheeler and sped off back to his house.
“He had a pretty big gash in his neck and started to bleed out. So I had to put him on the back of my four wheeler, drive him up to my house, and call the ambulance,” Bostick said. “My parents kind of took care of the rest, but I had to put him on the back, not freak out, drive it, and not kill us while we were driving the four wheeler back. He was starting to bleed out. He got pale and really light-headed, and he passed out, so I had to hold on to him while I was driving.”
These experiences have changed Bostick for the better and really shed light on what is important in life.
“Everybody talks about near-death experiences and I feel like everybody gets one. That was my one. That was the closest I’ve been to dying where I had a real chance of dying, and it was scary,” Bostick said. “It made me value what I had more. I was a typical 18-year-old kid, just didn’t have a care in the world. It just made me realize that at one point, we’re not going to be here. You can’t put off everything, especially relationships and people.”
Written by: Greg DeVries
Photography by: Matt Hellman