Saturday was a big sports day for the Wykoff family.
New Prairie senior Tom was running in the state cross country meet with his Cougars teammates in Terre Haute, while junior sister Holly, a member of the volleyball team, was playing in the Class 3A semistate in Plymouth.
Thanks to a friend and his airplane, Jason and Gretchan Wykoff were able to see both of them.
"It was a once in a lifetime thing," Jason said. "We were so thankful for the opportunity."
The scenario began to take shape the prior Saturday. While the Cougars volleyball team won the Hanover Central Regional, the cross country team had lost out on a gut-wrenching tie-breaker for the final qualifying spot that same day in the New Prairie Semistate. Then over the course of the next 48 hours, a scoring discrepancy was discovered, the results were appealed to the Indiana High School Athletic Association, and the Cougars were added to the state field that Monday.
"We thought the boys had missed out," Jason said. "As soon as we found out (they made it), I said to my wife, 'We have to find out what the time is.' We knew the volleyball was at 3 (Eastern), so we were hoping the boys would run in the morning."
With the cross country race at noon, driving from Terre Haute to Plymouth was not an option.
Faced with the prospect of having to pick one or the other, or go to one while Gretchan went to the other, Jason began mulling a Plan B.
"Our son's running in state, his senior year, he'd worked so hard, we were so proud of him, his teammates and his coaches, and the same with our daughter," he said. "They're such good kids. We're so proud of their efforts. I couldn't imagine choosing one or the other."
It was at that point that Jason remembered his friend, Mike Hannon, was a partial owner of Wilco Aircraft Charter.
"I got to know him through church," Jason said. "We've run marathons together. He flew me to a farm show in Columbus years ago."
Jason called Hannon, explaining the situation, and asked him if he was available Saturday. Hannon said, "Absolutely." By chance, he had his plane, which can seat roughly eight passengers, in La Porte for maintenance, and the junket was on.
"When Tom found out about it, he said, how much is that going to cost? I don't think it's worth it." Jason said. "He's kind of a jokester, so I told him maybe you need to make that application out for Ivy Tech instead of Purdue."
The Wykoffs drove to Plymouth Municipal Airport Saturday morning, meeting Hannon and his son/co-pilot Jake at the airport there. New Prairie Athletics Director Ben Bachmann and Superintendent Paul White also made the trip.
"Upon receiving the call, I immediately thought, what a great opportunity to be able to watch two teams of our student-athletes compete at such a high level of the IHSAA State tournament," Bachmann said. "Decision-wise, it was a no-brainer. I'm very grateful that Jason and Gretchan thought of me and that the logistics -- the boys running first this year and the girls playing in the second match -- made it possible. Both kids are true student-athletes and great representatives of New Prairie and our community."
The flight from Plymouth to Hulman Field in Terre Haute was a snappy 35 minutes. When they arrived, a courtesy vehicle was on site to take them to the LaVern Gibson Championship Course roughly five minutes away.
"It worked out awesome," Jason said.
Shortly after the boys race, the group hustled back to the airport for the return flight to the Plymouth airport, which is also a short distance from the high school. The lineups were being announced as they scurried into the gym.
"I'd have loved for the girls to have won, but the experience with my wife and friend was awesome," Jason said.
Even with Hannon giving them a nice discount on the flights, the financial investment was significant for the Wykoffs, but they'd do it all over again in a snap.
"We had some money set aside for vacation," Jason said. "It's more money we shouldn't have spent, but we we have no regrets. It was something amazing. It's one of those things where you appreciate what your parents did for you as you get older. Hopefully, when they become parents, they'll look back on it a little differently."