OKLAHOMA CITY — Ninety-two-point-seven-two seconds and not a dry eye in the place.
Well, something like that.
Norman High’s Patrick Ahearn ran Friday afternoon. Not for the first time but for the first time in front of the masses and for the first time in uniform and for the first time, as he so often says, “as a Tiger.”
He took off slowly and didn’t get a whole lot faster, but that was all right. Indeed, it was better than all right because it gave everybody time. And, Friday, everybody meant everybody.
Hundreds of athletes and tens of coaches and managers and support personnel milling around the infield moved over to crowd the home stretch several bodies deep; like punters rooting home their horse, which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad analogy, because if you have to bet on somebody you can’t go wrong with Ahearn.
Eight months previous to the day he lost most of the lower half of his left leg when the personal watercraft he was directing struck a boat before he struck the boat’s propeller.
Five months ago, he began to walk again on a prosthetic. Two weeks ago, he received a prosthetic made for running. Friday, he competed.
“Just finally being back with my team and not watching everything from the sidelines,” he said was the best thing about the day.
That, and “just being a Tiger again.”
His last 150 yards or so had to be way up there, too.
Ahearn was about halfway through his 400 meter heat when the PA announcer alerted everybody he was running in lane seven, quickly summarized the Tiger senior’s story and saluted him for being a role model. And by the time everybody understood what was going on a stunningly awesome site prevailed.