It was among the slowest of my early morning runs at the IHSA state meet—and one of the coldest. The dorm rooms at Eastern Illinois were freezing last night, as well.
When I came back from my run, one of the EIU staff girls manning the front door desk sat with a blanket around her.
It has been pretty standard for all the ten years of my Ignatius coaching career at the state meet that I go for a morning run. That routine probably goes back before my Ignatius years, even, when I coached at Francis Parker and University High. My wife, Peggy, and I were running on our state meet trips back then.
When Peggy was coaching at University High, we made this trip together several times. This morning we just sent a few 6:00 AM texts back and forth. Luc and Maisie, our six-year-olds, are still sleeping. Peggy will drive down later in the day to Champaign where she will stay overnight with her brother’s family. Tomorrow she’ll come down here for the meet–and leave the kids with a baby-sitter neice, Kate Doyle, for the day.
The morning run at state routine has always included a lap or two on the blue EIU track. This year the gates were closed. There were other changes, resulting perhaps from the reconstruction and resurfacing of the track and stadium facilities. The entrance for the check in tent, for example, has been moved north away from the new javelin runway—and away from the tree where runners have always congregated as they wait for their events to be called.
I suspect they will still wait by the tree, and we will just get them the information when it is time to go into the tent.
It was always interesting in the past to see that some coaches had their athletes out on the track at 6:30 AM preparing for the day. Today, with the track locked down already, the only athletes I saw at the track were the Lyons Township boys out for a run with their coaches. Lyons, as I recall, also has cross country camp in the summer that begins each morning at a 6:00 AM or so.
Since I didn’t get the chance to survey the inside of the track facility, my attention went other directions. The ponds around EIU are full this year—even the one at Carmen Hall. Just off the jogging trail by the pond near the stadium, there was a family of fluffy geese—with big geese stationed on the trail nearby. I gave them a wide berth. I also gave a quick though to my American Studies literature students who would have their last class today without me. My history teacher partner Josh Morrow will hold down the fort as the students present “monument projects,” produced out of shoe boxes and celebrating something we studied this past year. The geese, my students would be happy to know, reminded me briefly of the ducks in Catcher in the Rye.
Our boys are still sleeping. The underclassmen left Chicago yesterday at 11:00 AM, and they were in their dorm rooms by 3:30. They had an early dinner at Paggliaci’s in Matoon, a family-style restaurant with big tables and cheap pasta. Then they had an evening practice on the track.
Assistant coaches Ike Ofor and Steven Bugarin commanded that trip. Ofor reports positively on the new jump facility—especially the soft sand. He was happy that our long jumper Chris Hawkins was finally executing the landing they had been working on all season. The soft sand was the key, Ofor said. Hurdlers Hawkins and Conor Dunham got in starts for their 110 hurdles, and Dunham got to run some intermediate hurdles in lane 4, where he will race today.
I got that report after midnight last night. I drove the second bus with our seniors. Last night was our Baccalaureate Mass for the seniors. I think there was a time when the Ignatius graduation ceremony took place at church, even at the downtown Holy Name Cathedral. But now we have a separate final mass for the seniors and their families in Holy Family Church next to our school, and then a graduation ceremony at the University of Illinois-Chicago forum building down the street on Roosevelt Road.
We got on the road from Chicago just before 9:00 PM. The three-hour drive at night after a long day of work is not fun; I could not be a truck driver. Two years ago I had to drive the seniors to Charleston on Thursday night after graduation. We got a later start that night, I remembered, because after graduation the first thing the boys said was that they were hungry. We had to make a Subway stop on Taylor Street before we even got underway.
This year I got their orders ahead of time, and the sandwiches were ready at Subway when we stopped there on our way to the Dan Ryan. I simply jumped out of the minibus, signed the credit card slip, and brought the sandwiches to the boys in the bus. Senior co-captain Jack Keelan was impressed that the sandwiches even had their names on them. I had faxed the order for eight sandwiches before the mass this way:
“Reardon: BMT footlong Italian Herb and cheese bread. Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, green pepper, onions, sweet onion sauce.
Gibson: Tuna on white footlong. Lettuce, pickles, olives.
Simba: Turkey on wheat with pepperjack cheese, lettuce, oil and vinegar.
Keelan: Meatball on Italian with mozzarella.”
As Keelan suggested, “This is really pretty organized.”
The midnight arrival to the dorm in Charleston is not ideal. We got the boys to bed by 12:30. Bugarin had the room keys ready for us. I got a report on the day.
It is approaching 8:00 AM now, and we are obviously sharing the floor in Carmen Hall with a 2A team who have been stirring for about an hour already.
We’re going to give our seniors eight hours of sleep and so wake them at 8:30. We’ll try to be out to breakfast at What’s Cookin in downtown Charleston by 9:00.
Senior Elliot Gibson has pole vault check-in at 11:30, and Hawkins begins warm ups in the long jump pit at 11:45. The track events start at 12:55 with the 4×800 relay. We’re in heat 1, position 1-3.
Let the games begin!