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Clevenger Blog: Life on the Road
Monday, April 1, 2013
By John Clevenger
Clevenger Blog: Life on the Road

This past weekend the team was split between a meet at North Carolina State (N.C. State) and another meet at Southern Illinois University (SIU). I was on the bus that traveled four hours to Carbondale, Ill.

Friday was the first day of competition. For our team, we had entries in the men and women’s long jump and the women’s discus throw. SIU had a 10-K race that night, but our team had sent the 10-K runners to N.C. State. We cheered on our teammates as they threw well and jumped far on Friday night. We had a good showing.

We continued the meet on Saturday featuring a whole day’s worth of competition. Your Bisons took on an array of competition ranging from the OVC to the Big 10. We had distance runners, middle distance runners, sprinters, jumpers, vaulters, and throwers all giving everything that they could to take just a little off of their times or get even a few more inches on their personal bests.

The two squads kept tabs on each other through flurries of tweets, status updates, and text messages. Our group at SIU knew all about the sub-16-minute 5-K runners that we had competing at N.C. State. And they knew all about our impressive finishes and top performers. Even when spread out across the country we keep tabs on our own and do our best to cheer for the team we call ourselves members of.

There was a damper that came down on our SIU crowd as it started pouring rain just before the beginning of our 5-K runners’ heats. Now, these were the last members of our team to compete, so we needed to stay and cheer.

However, we did want to find cover from the monsoon as best we could. Our team had brought a canopy to use as shelter from the rain should it come. As the rain started, the track squad full of distance runners and sprinters quickly sought out the canopy’s inviting protection from the rain. They picked up all of our team bags and equipment and hid them from the downpour. I’m glad my bags and all of the throwing implements were safely tucked away; unfortunately the “& Field” part of our squad couldn’t fit under the canopy as well…what were we to do?

At every track meet, we bring our own food. We have a cooler of organic chocolate milk, deli meat, bread, and some other snacks for munching throughout the track meet. When the rain started coming down, the team quickly broke out a tarp and covered the food. Well, the “& Field” guys and girls (throwers and jumpers) lifted the tarp and got underneath it. We repositioned the food so that we could sit down on what ground was still dry. We had a makeshift fort, and we had a blast under it. We were telling stories and making jokes.

The “& Field” squad was having so much fun that some of the runners even started to abandon their more stable and functional shelter to take refuge with us. In the end we may have had 10 people crammed under the tarp that was maybe big enough to actually shelter half that number. But we didn’t even care that we were getting a little wet from the rain because the inner-child in all of us had come out and we were having the absolute best time. We probably waited for 30 minutes under that tarp before we had anyone competing again. That’s when the gun sounded.

The starter pistol sounded, and our 5-K runners took off completely unshielded from the rain. They raced extremely well, and we all cheered ourselves hoarse for them. Then came the girls’ 5-K. We did the exact same thing all over again for the duration of the almost 20-minute long race. We cheered from start to finish as our girls ran and ran and ran through the most atrocious weather conditions imaginable. But they raced to victory! Go Bisons!

After the women’s 5-K, we were ready to load up and ship out with one of our favorite bus drivers, Larry.

We were heading home to Nashville. On the bus one of our jumpers, Caleb Love, came up with a fantastic idea for a funny but safe and appropriate prank.

The most important thing about our pranks is that they are never malicious or done to cause emotional or physical duress, stress, or harm. An entire group collaborated to make sure that the people being duped would laugh about it almost as soon as it happened. We were not hazing or attempting to upset or embarrass anyone.

Caleb is a smaller guy. He’s not short, but he’s pretty skinny. He emptied out the overhead compartments above the seats of our bus and climbed up and hid inside. He had clued a couple of us into his prank so that we could help him out.

The basic idea was to get someone to come all the way to the back of the bus under the pretense that one of our senior girls, Sara Stephens, wanted to ask them about how they competed. While they were talking I was supposed to calmly ask them to get me something out of my bag in the overhead compartment where Caleb was actually hiding.  The unsuspecting Bison opened the compartment to find only Caleb’s head screaming, “Boo” and startling them.

The rest of the bus was rolling with laughter and was quickly joined by our punk’d teammates as they recognized the humor in the situation. We all had a great time and in all I think we managed to get three team members and one of our assistant coaches before the entire bus was aware of the prank.

Everyone seemed to have fun and I think we had a great rest of the ride back to Nashville. The bus was once again full of personal bests, great results from our meet, and a camaraderie that only comes from being on a tight-knit team with some of your best friends in the world.