"We are joined by sweat, bound by nothing. We are running friends. I wouldn't want it any other way." ---Runner's credo----
There were bouquets from the Germantown girls track team, meet officials from near and far, classmates from graduate-level schooling, and literally hundreds of fellow teachers, students and athletes, some still in uniform from practices yet to be run or meets yet to be contested. Some were unable to hold back the tears no matter how many tissues were offered.
The line was an hour long at 3 p.m. and was still an hour long at 4:30 p.m.
No matter, people could read the cross country yearbooks, gaze at the large posters of well-worn and familiar phrases, linger over the thought-provoking montage of hand-written student messages or look at the array of heart-rendering hand-drawn children's cards to pass the time.
One of those cards, which featured a green field, a winding cross country trail set through a vast brown field and a large multi-colored sun, was a particular favorite. No doubt it had tear stains on it by the time the visitiation was over at 7 p.m. because the artist, probably a well-intentioned, thoughtful and gracious child, had put the name "Mr. Edington" on the sun.
"Mr. Edington" refers to the late Homestead science teacher and track and cross country coach Andy Edington, whose productive and thoughtful life was being remembered at First Alliance Curch in Germantown this April 29 afternoon.
There, the Homestead High School community was accepting condolences for another strong ray of light, another family man cut down in his prime by life's vagaries. It gave many in the community pause, as they also recalled the tragic death of reknown Homestead figure and basketball coach John Chekouras not quite three years ago.
Both men had been running at the time. Edington, 47, the head girls cross country coach and assistant track coach, was out with the distance group of the track team on April 25, when he collapsed of a seizure and eventually died.
"It's not fair to reflect on John," said boys track coach Dan Benson, who has known Edington since 1987 and was also a friend of Chekouras', "but here we are with two very fit, health-conscious individuals. ...It's hard not to draw parallels. You just throw up your hands because you can't quite make any sense of it."
And yet people tried with both humor and heart.
They remembered the man who told his runners not to tote too heavy of back-packs or not to wear high heel shoes to dances because those things could adversely affect performance. And even if they did attend the dances wearing flats, they were absolutely, positively supposed to ice their shins afterwards.
"If you relax your tongue, your whole body will relax." (Mildly sarcastic saying from Edington, no doubt uttered during a noisy and less than successful practice).
People also took a long look at the three photo boards that dotted the visitation route. The first two were dominated by shots of him with his wife Sue and his three children (Sam, 14; Abby, 13; and Bethany, 11). There were pictures of him with them at Christmas, out on a water slide, even riding a camel. These were the important things to him. The highest priority along with his faith.
"Thank you Mr. Edington so much! You were always there with a welcome smile and would sit next to us sometimes during meets. In my mind, you will forever be at the third turn of the track. Thank you to the Edington family for sharing him with Homestead." Megan (student message on a long piece of poster board in the hallway at First Alliance).
The priorities right below those, the teaching of science and coaching, were frequently mixed together. He was constantly creating graphs and charts trying to scientifically and analytically figure out ways to make his runners perform better.
"He was an incredibly bright individual," Athletic Director Charlie Gross said. "His knowledge of sports was always intertwined wirth his knowledge of technology. ..He could speak to the kids with great confidence and get them to buy into the idea that what he was telling them was going to work. His vision and determination would really pay dividends."
But sometimes his love of science got in the way of simple communication, said girls track head coach John Kruger.
"I was talking to his neighbors the other day," Krueger said, "and they spoke to me about how he would start talking about running and science and they would be blown away by his knowledge, but eventually at some point, they'd have to ask him to slow down and say ''In English Andy, in English.'" (laughs)
- "Mr. Edington, Thank you for being so passionate about your job and loving what you did. Your enthusiasm is inspirational. You will be missed." Cristina Soto.
Competitors as well as colleagues were heartbroken.
"My kids (runners) are friends with his and that's how I found out," said Bay head cross country and assistant track coach Mike Miller. "..All barriers are gone in a situation like this. This is just devastating. My heart goes out to his wife and those three kids, all still in grade school. This is just so wrong, so unexpected. He brought that program back and he had such a wonderful rapport with his kids (runners). He had such a calming effect on them."
Krueger spoke of the endless number of competing coaches, runners and officials who came up to him and his now short-handed staff and echoed those thoughts during a junior varsity meet on April 28.
"He was always prepared, making sure to give his best to his athletes," Krueger said.
"Dear Mr. Edington, Practice isn't the same without you, but we can all feel you around us. You can still be our coach in the sky. Thank you for giving us more than we could ask for, more than we deserve. ..I know you're racing with me, making me stronger, pushing me further." Love, Keali
Krueger said that the rest of the season, the rest of the school year, will be difficult.
"As a staff, we'll try to figure out how to fill that large a void," he said. "We'll try to keep things as consistent as possible with his girls (the distance group). Try to continue to do what he'd have wanted them to do."
"Mr. Edington, You helped make my transformation to HHS so much easier and I learned more from you in this short amount of time than from any other teacher in my life." Anna Kolbeck