The Dream Team runs its final lap
An exhibition run on a Monday morning was not the way Summer Croxton, Rosie Schaffer, Chloe Menard and Claire Jones envisioned their high school track careers ending. All four had dreams of one last trip to state to cap off their senior years at Graham High School. The four hold a school record in the 4x200 meter relay and needed one last run after COVID-19 ended their senior seasons prematurely. The four runners gathered one last time at Newton Field to get one last run. They wanted to end their season on their terms.
“We were supposed to turn in our uniforms, and that’s when it hit us that it was over,” said Jones. “We decided that we needed to do this. We all called each other and then called Coach Walton and said we wanted to run one more time.”
The team quickly found success in their sophomore year, although it was with a different lineup. Then senior Allison Lee ran on the relay team with Menard running as an alternate. Despite the change for one season, their bond had been formed several years earlier.
“These girls have been running together for a long time,” said Graham track coach Jim Walton. “You try to find each runner’s strengths and find the best places to put them. These girls made it really easy when they were already breaking records in junior high.”
The relay team first made it to the state meet in 2018, with Croxton, Schaffer, Lee and Jones. It did not take long to make it back with Menard in the group. The four broke a school record in the first Region I meet on April 26, 2019, en route to back-to-back trips to the state meet. Along with Walton, all four runners believed they could have made it three years in a row.
“We call these girls the dream team,” said Walton. “Even when Chloe was running reserve, she was keeping pace in practice. They broke a school record last year when they made it to state. We truly believed that this year was going to be the culmination of their high school careers.”
That all came to a halt in early March when the UIL suspended all competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A month later, the dream had died after the entire spring season was canceled. It was then when all four girls needed closure. All four runners share one memory that stands out among the rest. Earning a trip to state in 2019 after the record-breaking run in the 4A Region I meet. The four didn’t want to time their final run. They just wanted to run it. They didn’t want a virus to end their high school careers. They wanted to end it on their terms.
“This was something we needed,” said Schaffer. “When I finished my run, all I could think about was when we made it to state last year. I handed the baton off and took a breath. I had to run across the field to the finish line where they (Menard, Jones and Croxton) were already hugging. We couldn’t do it again this year, so this is definitely some closure for all of us.”
The bonds that started in junior high are not over with their high school careers. All four will be going to college in the fall. Three will be continuing athletic careers. They will all leave Graham with the same memory in mind. The 4A Region I meet on April 26, 2019.
So just before 11 a.m. on Monday morning, the four lined up for one final time as teammates. Menard started, as she always has.
“I was just thinking about how excited I am for us to be out here one last time,” Menard said. “I wanted to spend one last time with my best friends and find some closure in all of this.”
Menard handed off to Jones for one last time, who handed it off to Schaffer. Croxton took the baton one final time, and less than a minute later, it was over. Not in Austin, but at Newton Field, where it all started.
(Contributed video by Kristi Jones)