Tales from the Beat: Following the road map to a misadventure

By Tom Hardesty | Assistant Sports Editor Published:

By Tom Hardesty | Assistant Sports Editor

In the late 1990s, I covered the state track meet with former Record-Courier staff writer David Carducci. It was held at the University of Dayton's Welcome Stadium that year, so Dave and I drove down the night before so we would be well-rested when the meet began the next morning.

It was imperative that we arrive at the stadium early the next day, because the first event was the Division II boys 4x800-meter relay final, which the Field Falcons had a great chance of winning.

We felt we were ahead of the game because one of the selling points of the hotel we decided to stay at was its advertised close proximity to the stadium.

Perfect.

So we got up early the next day and, with Dave at the wheel, got on the highway and headed for the stadium. Clicking along at around 70 mph, we figured we would be there in just a few minutes. These were the days before GPS, etc., so we planned our route via an old-school road map.

Well, a few minutes went by, then 15, then 20, and we were still hammering along the expressway with no stadium in sight. We had budgeted our time based on our "just a few minutes" plan, and time was becoming our enemy.

As the miles went by and the clock kept ticking, our chances of arriving in time to see Field possibly win the state 4x800 title were rapidly fading. As a result, Dave began to drive even faster as we nervously kept tabs on the time.

At one point he told me to keep an eye out for police and state patrol cars as he roared down the expressway. What we had thought was going to be a short, relaxing drive to the stadium had instead turned into a nerve-wracking, white-knuckle, one-vehicle NASCAR race.

Finally, after a solid half-hour of hard driving, we saw the sign for Welcome Stadium. By the time Dave parked the car, the gun for the 4x8 was due to go off in about five minutes. We hurried out of the car and, laptop cases slung over our shoulders, sprinted across the parking lot to the media gate.

We then heard the gun go off and the roar of the crowd signifying the start of the race, so we were now in grave danger of missing the entire event. Breathless and already leg weary, we hurried through the crowd and down to the media corral just in time to see the final lap of the anchor leg.

It was a battle between the Field anchor and another kid, and the Field anchor outkicked his opponent at the end to win the state title for the Falcons.

We had made it -- barely.

Fast-forward the film to the end of the day ... Upon arriving back at Dave's car, we figured we would try another route to the hotel after that morning's half-hour thrill ride. So instead of heading back toward the highway, Dave turned the other way out of the parking lot onto the main road, one similar to Route 59 in Kent.

We passed through a few intersections and prepared for a long drive through a never-ending sea of stoplights and stop-and-go traffic. This was a mistake, we thought.

And then we saw it: Up ahead about a block, on the right-hand side of the road, was our hotel -- less than five minutes from the stadium. We had nearly driven in a complete circle that morning.

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