Most of Lauren Forgues’ athletic career has been self-centered, focusing on her own rise through the amateur racewalking ranks to an elite level capable of competing for an Olympic berth.
But as she coached the cross-country teams at Boothbay Region High School this fall, the 25-year-old Forgues gained additional respect for all those whose guidance helped foster her own competitive growth.
“It’s been a really interesting journey for me because it’s totally different being the athlete and then switching gears and being the coach responsible for 30 high school kids,” said Forgues, who placed sixth in the women’s 20-kilometer racewalk at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. “It’s a little frightening.”
Forgues became the Seahawks’ head coach on an interim basis this season when Nick Scott took the year off from the job to attend to a family health issue.
“It was a very spur-of-the-moment decision,” she said. “I got the job about two days before the season started, so Nick and I have been coordinating over the whole season to make sure they’re running what they need to be running and at the times they need to be running.”
That coordination proved fruitful, as Boothbay’s boys team swept through its Mountain Valley Conference schedule, then won the Western Maine Class C title before edging Orono by two points to win its second state championship in the last five years.
Boothbay went on to be one of six boys teams to represent Maine last weekend at the New England cross-country championships in Manchester, N.H.
Boothbay’s boys and girls teams also both won Western Maine Class C sportsmanship banners presented at the state meet by the Maine Principals’ Association.
“The hardest part is being responsible for 30 high school children,” said Forgues, who was named MVC coach of the year. “I’ve been the athlete up until now and pretty much responsible for myself with one or two people helping me. But now being responsible for high-school-age kids who are, after all, high-school-age kids is different, but it’s been fun. The challenge was just making sure I had everybody where they needed to be and doing what they needed to be doing.”
Forgues also had to be aware that the runners she coached weren’t of Olympic caliber — at least not yet.
“They definitely fulfilled my expectations, but being an Olympic-level athlete and training at that level you do have to tone it down a lot to be a high-school-level coach,” she said. “I still try to instill the same beliefs and traits an Olympic-level runner or walker would have, but obviously make it appropriate for a high school runner. But it’s hard to tone it down too much, and I’ve learned that over the season.”
The coaching experience also reinvigorated Forgues’ own competitive juices. After mulling retirement after the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, she now wants to continue training with an eye toward the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“I haven’t even reached the peak age yet in terms of athletic ability,” she said. “Most distance women peak in their late 20s and early 30s, plus these kids inspire me to keep training. They always ask me if I’m going to keep trying to make the Olympic team and I say ‘OK’ because I want to be inspiring for them, so we’ll see where it goes.”
Forgues plans to compete in a few races during the upcoming indoor track and field season to gauge her standing on the U.S. racewalking scene.
“2016 is around the corner but it’s still a couple of years away,” she said. “I still want to try to make an Olympic team, it’s not totally off the shelf yet.”
Forgues will bring a considerable racewalking resume to that renewed quest that includes state titles and success in junior and then senior national competitions while living in California.
Forgues has since moved back East, where she plans to remain as she continues her racewalking career.
“I was in California with my team the last time, but I’m going to do my very best to do my training at home in Maine,” said Forgues, who is coached by two-time Olympian Tim Seaman. “Joanne Dow, a 2008 Olympian, was from Manchester, New Hampshire, and she did it training in the winter, so I’ll try my best to do it here, too.”
And while Scott may return as Boothbay’s cross-country coach next fall, Forgues also hopes to continue teaching sports as well as competing.
“I would love to coach again,” she said. “I’m going to probably help out in the spring in track, but I don’t have any plans for cross country next year because Mr. Scott will hopefully be back. It’s a little hard because there aren’t too many schools in the area but I would love to keep coaching. I’ve had a lot of fun doing it.”