Adesh Bassi was in his room, stressing over his physics final, when his dad popped his head through the doorway. It was the first weekday afternoon Bassi, a senior at Maria Carrillo, had spent at home in months. Usually, he was at track practice.
It was May 21.
“‘Coach Fogg called. He was asking if you can come to practice and run this Friday,’” Bassi remembered his dad saying to him. “I had no idea what my dad was even talking about.”
What Pumas coach Greg Fogg called Bassi about was this: Carrillo’s vaunted 4x400-meter boys’ relay team had suffered a serious blow when junior Will McCloud strained his hamstring at the first practice after the North Coast Section Redwood meet. The Pumas needed a fourth runner to carry the baton — literally — until McCloud could return.
The team wanted Bassi to run a leg of the relay at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions in Berkeley May 25-26.
But at Redwood, Bassi had finished the 400 in 53.29 to come in 19th out of 24 runners.
And with that finish, he assumed his prep running career was over.
“I was ready to wrap up my season, to be honest,” he said. “I was pretty disappointed about the way I ran at Redwood. I ran significantly slower than I was projected to.”
“I was kind of done with all of it,” he said.
And then the phone rang.
Fogg needed Bassi. But it was not a straight swap. Bassi didn’t have McCloud’s speed, but he was a four-year veteran who had run the 4x400 relay plenty of times. He knew timing and handoffs. He was friends with the other runners.
But Fogg knew it was a risk, especially with the super speed that shows up at MOC.
“With McCloud out, we ran a guy who is two seconds slower,” he said of Bassi. “Hey, our team is good enough that we have two seconds to give. We will run Adesh and let Will heal.”
Fogg acknowledged it was a tall order. Although it had only been two days, Bassi had moved on.
“He was punched out,” he said. “He was ready to go on to (his) last couple of days of high school social life. I think it was harder for him to get punched back in. There is the physical component, but there is also the mental.”
“Mentally I turned myself off,” he said after his lackluster finish at Redwood. “I was pretty down.”
But saying yes gave Bassi the opportunity to run on a huge track stage at the Meet of Champions. It also was a chance to get the sour taste of the Redwood meet out of his mouth.
And in a way, it was a chance to redeem himself with the sport that had given him so much after the Tubbs fire destroyed his home in October.
“I knew during practice there was never a moment when I felt unmotivated,” he said. “I had a lot of passion since my house burned down. Running was always there for me.”
Saying yes to this temporary gig seemed like a chance to rewrite the last act of his prep running career.