Foxcroft’s 4×800-meter relay team of Tobias Hogfeldt, Gabe Piquette, Chandler Rockwell, and Cooper Nelson traveled to the 29th Annual New England Interscholastic Indoor Track and Field Championship in search of redemption.
Entering the Class B State Championship, two weeks prior, the Pony foursome was undefeated, besting every team they had faced throughout the season by at least 20 seconds but more regularly 60 plus. It had been a historic season for the four that had set a University of Maine facility record and had already shattered the decade old school record by more than 20 seconds. The team knew competition was going to be tough but a state championship was on their minds.
Instead, 16 laps later, despite the best efforts of Hogfeldt, Piquette, Rockwell, and Nelson, Greely High School crossed first. The Rangers of Cumberland ran brilliantly and earned the championship over the Ponies.
A runners-up finish was great for the Foxcroft team that had never placed higher than seventh in more than a dozen years, but the Foxcroft Four had already been tantalizingly close to achieving a team goal only to fall short once before.
Earlier in the season, with Nelson scheduled to sit out of the PVC 4×8 to focus on individual events that would score the team more championship points, the Foxcroft Four decided to run for the 4×800-meter League Record at the last regular season meet. As league rules mandate, the record of 8:26.98 held by Bangor’s team from 2007 could only be broken at an EMITL-PVC contest. The final regular season meet was the team’s last shot.
Leading wire-to-wire, the Ponies were forced to push themselves for four laps each without competition. Only racing against the clock and the voices in their heads telling them to slow down, the team pushed and willed themselves to a time of 8:28.51, less than 1.5 seconds off the record. One tenth of a second faster per lap would have gotten them the time and a place in the record books.
The beautiful thing about qualifying for the New England Indoor Track Championship, however, is that you get another shot, one last chance to run indoors. For the Foxcroft Four, it was more than that. It was their last chance to run together ever.
After the meet, the team of Tobias Hogfedlt, Gabe Piquette, Chandler Rockwell, and Cooper Nelson will never run again. Hogfeldt will begin tennis, Rockwell will return to the baseball diamond, and next year, Nelson and Piquette will be away at college. The New England Track Championship was the team’s last time to share a track, a baton, and a Foxcroft Academy uniform.
These thoughts never float into a competitor’s head, though. Competition forces one into the moment. There is no past or future–only the present, when one’s best is demanded.
On Sunday, February 28, at 1:50 pm on the Reggie Lewis Track in Roxbury, Massachusetts, the Foxcroft Four gave their best.
Hogfeldt ran first. Jostling and elbowing with 16 others lead legs on the six-lane track, Hogfeldt navigated to the front and handed off in second at 2:03–his best. Piquette was next. Staying within himself, Piquette allowed team after team to surge past, but he waited and waited and waited, then pounced. When everyone else’s legs were failing from a fast start, Piquette picked them off, handing off in 2:10–his best. Rockwell was third. With the best speed of anyone on the track, Rockwell latched onto the runners ahead of him, floating with the confidence of a sprinter. With a lap left, he grimaced his way around a runner and handed off in 2:06–his best. Nelson was last. With three great runs before him, Nelson was not going to spoil the team’s day. With runners spread all over the track, it was hard differentiate the anchor legs ahead or behind. It did not matter. Nelson passed everyone, finishing in 2:03–his best.
After a season of ups and downs, Foxcroft’s Four finished in 8:24.46–their best, Foxcroft Academy’s new best, and Maine’s best.
While their 8:24.46 will not go down as a league record and their defeat of all Maine teams will not earn them a state title, that moment on the Reggie Lewis Track will always be a moment to remember.
(Photos of individuals contributed by Ali Desmarais and Hannah Fishburn.)