By Nettie Hoagland
Across Lincoln Academy, many restful weekends were interrupted by a sounding alarm. For some, this signaled the dreadful emergence of standardized testing. For Lincoln Academy Cross Country runners however, Saturday’s coming of fall morning generated an air of adrenaline. Departing campus by 8:30 AM, the Lincoln Academy bus was filled with team sweatshirts and fueled bodies. Followed by a trail of invested parents and community members, the team of twenty two was on route to Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast, where Maine’s largest Cross Country event would gather.
Sprinting up hills and darting through woods, Lincoln runners train daily for the arrival of competition. Unlike most Friday races however, where small packs of runners commandeer the starting line, this weekend’s Festival of Champions capped their entry limit at sixty five teams across New England. Stretching from midcoast Maine to Providence, Rhode Island, the festival unites and ultimately challenges accomplished athletes. In a herd of 1,700 runners, Lincoln Academy, adorned in black and white jerseys, manifested pride and presence.
Accustomed to every incline and sharp turn along route, the Belfast trails were not a surprise to Lincoln runners. The overwhelming population of teams, spectators, parents and coaches, however, made for an unimaginable experience. Sixty five yellow school buses parked in one lot, runners from each team gathered in warmth; every inch of Belfast’s middle school campus was filled. As if reaching shade on a crowded beach, Lincoln students, pleased with their arrival, sprawled on blankets and huddled for warmth as they waited for the events to commence.
The Festival began at 11 a.m. with the girls unseeded race, where Lincoln Academy senior Nettie Hoagland, junior Jenny Arter, and junior Elisa Serra held the team together. Weaving through pacts of nervous girls and fiery coaches, the Lady Eagles practiced stride outs and stretches before beginning their run. Hundreds of sneakers, tightly laced and decorated with time chips for electronic timing, shook anxiously before the white starting line. Nerves built as the national and Canadian anthems replaced blasting rock songs and dancing spectators. Before leading their individual races, Lincoln runners united around Coach Martin with a lively chant and warm huddle. As the piston sounded, countless girls trampled down narrow trails, before greeting the lively crowd. Sprinting to the finish, within a herd of 257 runners, Nettie Hoagland was followed by Jenny Arter and Elisa Serra.
As the noon time approached and cool winds arrived, Lincoln Academy’s Gus Williams, Ian Stapp, Theo Seidel, Travis Knof, Peter Cooke, David Ribeiro, and Finn Dworkin, ran through a sea of over four hundred unseeded boys. Lining the trails was a clan of unmistakable Lincoln fans, supporting and exhorting their teammates finish. As the day progressed, Sam Russ and Ezra Smith represented Lincoln Academy in the freshman boys race. Motivated by a pact of athletes, Sam Russ rounded the corners quickly; achieving his plan to “build throughout the race,” Sam finished second overall–quite an achievement in such a large and accomplished field of runners. Ezra Smith followed quickly behind the pact, building to his finishing sprint.
Emma Allen (sophomore), Allie Gorrill (senior), Maggie Nevens (senior), and Tahlia Mullen (sophomore) prepared for their competition in the seeded girls race. Huddled in each other’s warmth, the girls wished each other luck before leading their individual competitions. Emma Allen impressively jumped in front of the crowd, followed by Allie Gorrill, Maggie Nevens, and Tahlia Mullen. As the day grew shorter, Lincoln’s seeded boys loomed out of their nestled tent, replacing the comfort of their sleeping bags with preparation drills. The festival’s final event, Lincoln competitors, sophomores Noah Jordan, Levi McAtee, and David Barnum, and senior Abe Steinberger fought against 275 athletes: the largest race of the day. Abe Steinberger led the Lincoln team, followed by David Barnum, Levi McAtee and Noah Jordan.
United through the warmth of sleeping bags and supporting fans, Lincoln Academy Cross Country runners met Saturday’s Festival of Champions with energy and anticipation, leading to widespread individual success.
Nettie Hoagland is a Lincoln Academy Senior, and a Communications Intern.