Walker's Pace: The Friendly Skies
Friday, November 19, 2010, 11:48 p.m.
The cross country teams' trek to the NCAA Championships has once again risen up and set forth a new set of challenges in what's becoming an annual tradition while travelling to Terre Haute, Ind.
Fortunately the men and women of Oregon met the adversity head on and persevered all the way to the Hoosier State.
What appeared to be a relatively easy day of travel - a United Express flight from Eugene to Denver and a connecting flight in the Mile High City to Indianapolis - rapidly turned into a mad scramble when the Denver-Indianapolis leg of the flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems with the aircraft.
Ninety minutes, dozens of phone calls and a rousing game of Bananagrams later, the Ducks were able to secure routing as far as Chicago, so the team rushed through airport security and were the last passengers to board the Denver flight.
At worst, the team would stay the night in Chicago and either fly or bus to Indianapolis in the morning. Thoughts of a Chicago-style deep dish pizza dinner blazed through the collective minds of the runners.
Once on the ground in Denver it was a quick gallop to the gate for the Chicago flight, United 254, which ground personnel held for some time in order for the Ducks to make their connection. We owe our fellow passengers on United 254 a debt of gratitude for their patience.
Also upon arriving in Denver, we learned that United had made the decision to reroute one of their later Chicago departures to drop us off in Indianapolis en route to its final destination. The only challenge at that point was finding an eastbound plane with 23 open seats!
The winner? United Express 6769, which normally flies a short non-stop route from Chicago/O'Hare over Lake Michigan to Muskegon, Mich. Friday night, United 6769 became a unique one-stop O'Hare-to-Indianapolis-to-Muskegon.
Muskegon is to the northeast of Chicago; Indianapolis is southeast. With less than a dozen passengers on the original flight, 6769 became a defacto charter for Ducks into Indianapolis. We sympathized with the original passengers of 6769, who likely didn't reach Muskegon until well after 1 a.m. And also offer a thank you to United for going the extra mile as it were to help us get to the NCAA Championships.
Alas, our luggage didn't make the Indianapolis/Muskegon connection, but should catch up with us Saturday morning. In spite of that, the teams made the most of it. Borrowing clothes from teammates, both teams were even able to get a shake out run in before calling it a night.
All in all, the Ducks'met adversity well and their spirits remain high for Monday's NCAA Championships. Tomorrow, the Ducks will move on to Terre Haute and get their first look the the LaVern Gibson championships course.
Click here to bid on the special pink uniforms the teams wore at the Oct. 16 Bill Dellinger Invitational.
Check out the 2010 Oregon Cross Country Multi-Media Guide.