If there were anyone who was going to have mercy on Loyola College cross country runner Peter Ianacone, it was Mom. Good, old lovable Mom.
And then the phone rang.
"Peter, this is your mother," said Joan Ianacone, from her home in Hawthorne, N.J. "Now that you have gotten run over by a deer, does this mean you're going to join the Elks Club?"
It has been four days since Ianacone, a freshman, was run over and knocked unconscious by a deer during the Maryland State Cross Country Championships in Hagerstown. Ianacone was hospitalized briefly Saturday after he was diagnosed with a mild concussion.
The good-natured Ianacone returned to practice yesterday with eight stitches behind his left ear, and a belly full of laughs.
His favorite movies are now "The Deer Hunter" and "Bambi." Teammates sent him a giant get-well card that read: "I'm sorry. How can you ever forgive me?" It was signed, "The Deer." Other friends have given him a subscription to Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine.
One of Ianacone's nurses asked him, "Aren't you the dear boy who got hit by a deer? How much damage did he do to your car?"
"My uncle wanted to know when I was going to tell the real truth, that I hurt myself falling off a bar stool," said Ianacone.
"You just can't walk up to someone and say, 'Hey, guess what happened to me today? I got hit by a deer.' People don't believe you. They ask you about your car. They want an explanation."
Here's what happened: At the fourth mile of the five-mile race in a rugged wooded area, Ianacone was running in the top third of the field, almost shoulder to shoulder with Hagerstown Junior College's Jamie McCarty, when a deer leaped over their heads.
McCarty barely saw the deer. Ianacone didn't, and one of the 150-pound animal's hooves caught him behind his left ear.
Ianacone, 5 feet 10 and 165 pounds, still isn't sure what hit him. And for a few minutes on Saturday, neither was anyone else. Ianacone lay motionless for about two minutes.
"I had no clue to what happened," said Brian Sellers, 18, from Hagerstown JC. He was the first runner to administer first aid to Ianacone. "I thought he had run into a tree."
Loyola coach John Griffin said: "I thought he slipped and fell; maybe he was down from leg cramps."
Maybe meet director and Hagerstown coach Mike Spinnler had the best description: "They were racing through the woods when this brown blur took the kid out like a linebacker in a football game."
The deer kept right on running.
"I remember running to the four-mile marker, and looking down because there was a lot of stones and roots," said Ianacone. "Then the next thing I remember is someone holding my legs, and seeing all of these people staring down at me like they're looking through a telescope and asking questions like what's your name, how old are you and who is the president of the United States.
"Then I hear someone say I got hit by a deer, and I broke out laughing," said Ianacone. "Everyone was waiting to see if I was all right so they could all start laughing."
After Ianacone was rushed to the hospital, some of the coaches, who had been involved in the sport since the early 1960s, held a meeting to determine if such a thing had happened before.
The consensus was never.
A Department of Natural Resources official told Spinnler that the deer may have been spooked by the more than 100 runners, some in brightly colored clothing.
"I've heard all kind of excuses for guys not finishing races, from leg cramps, to being over and under trained, to getting lost," said Griffin. "But when they said he got knocked out by a deer, I said, 'Yeah, right. What?' "
Ianacone remembers a similar incident when he was a high school freshman. The victim was a female, who was leading the race.
"I've never hunted deer before," said Ianacone, who two months ago had 10 stitches in the back of his head from a water skiing accident. "Now, though, might be a good time to start."