There isn't a coach alive who at some point over their career left an athlete behind because he/she was minutes late for departure - typically due to oversleeping or some immature mistake, one of those individuals who will probably be late for their own funeral.
It was early April and we were taking the Loyola bus to Knoxville Tennessee for the '94 Dogwood Relays, every athlete excited to compete in 70° and sunshine - despite the eight hour drive. For those who had been at the meet before they realized this was a last shot to get a good qualifying time for entry into the Drake Relays so they would do anything to make sure they were ready to compete in this invitational.
Gordon was grumbling about Brendan when we took off for Knoxville Thursday morning, but I understood his mood, an opportunity missed by an athlete and eight hours behind the wheel were not a great way to start the trip.
It wasn't until we stopped in Indy for a bathroom break that he discussed what we might do. I'd forgotten Brendan was on two relays. That's what all the guys were talking about.
Now we had to decide whether to scrap the foursomes and try to get them in individual events or find two males willing to run an extra race. No matter how we sliced it, we couldn't come up with good options. So we decided just to leave the entries as is and take events race by race.
Such is the life of a coach.
We arrived at 4pm and checked into the hotel, the woman at the front desk handing me a note to give to one of the guys on the team. A little weird...but whatever. Everyone changed and we drove to track for a shake-out, cramped runners anxious to stretch tired legs. Mike approached us after everyone finished the laps and were stretching.
"Coach, that message was from Brendan. He got a ride to the airport and is flying into Nashville." Nashville? We're in Knoxville. Mike smiled, understanding our puzzlement. "He couldn't find a flight to Knoxville...and Nashville was the closest...so he's going to catch a Greyhound at 10pm and should be here after midnight."
Actually, closer to 2:05am.
The next morning at breakfast Gordon just glared at Brendan, giving him a look that said, "You better run your a** off today or you're going to be getting home the same way you got here. Brendan grinned like the Cheshire Cat and nodded, unfazed by a look that made others cower.
It must have been quite the motivation because he turned in two good legs with times that would get the foursomes into the Drake Relays. The fact that Gordon let him ride the bus home with us was proof the performances were acceptable.
Yet for all the headaches Brendan caused, I had to give him credit. I don't know too many athletes who would spend nearly $175 out of their own pocket to atone for a mistake. In fact, I wonder how many kids would do this today. So despite the bonehead move, Brendan did the right thing - he made lemonade out of lemons.