Nearly 22 years ago, Nate Sergent wrapped up as magical of a senior season as a high school sports athlete could have.

During the 1998 outdoor track season, Sergent won Class A titles in four events for Gardiner, and set two Class A state records — in the 200-meter dash (22.7 seconds) and 300-meter hurdles (38.28) — that would go on to last for more than 20 years. His mark in the hurdles still lasts to this day.

After a sweep of the four events he entered at the 1997 Class A meet, Sergent entered the 1998 season with goals of another sweep, and state records.

“I believe my junior year I was close to the state record anyway. So going into my senior year, that was my goal, to get all four. Actually, after my senior state meet, I had four of the records, not just the two. I had the 200, the 300 hurdles, the 100 (meter dash) and the 4X100 relay. I believe the 100 and the relay records got broken a year after me leaving (high school).”

As a youngster growing up in Gardiner, Sergent knew he had speed, but didn’t realize his potential until just before entering high school.

“I was never that big growing up, I always had speed,” Sergent said. “Back even in school, you’d race your friends on the playgrounds and stuff, and I was always the fastest. I played basketball when I was younger, I played football and I played baseball, too. I never really utilized (speed) in football and flag football growing up, basketball was more quickness rather than speed. I was never able to really utilize it until the summer before my freshman year. I went down to New York, I believe, and ran in a regional track meet — one of those open track meets — and did pretty well. I quit baseball and started running track. Baseball, to me, was pretty boring, and track was more of an individual sport. I could control what I do, and being fast, I knew I’d be good at it anyways.”

Interestingly enough, Sergent’s longest standing record — the 300 hurdles — was an event that he didn’t participate in until his junior year.

“My track coach, Matt Brown, had talked to me about doing the hurdles,” Sergent said. “I didn’t think I had long enough legs to do the (110-meter hurdles), the high hurdles. One of the cool things was, I ran in the sprints, and there was always a group of the same guys in the sprints. I ran into the same people at the same meets. It was always a group of the same guys from different schools. But the hurdles, nobody ran sprints and hurdles. Nobody did both. You either ran sprints, or the hurdle guys did the hurdles. I tried it my junior year and did really well, and then my senior year, I remember there was an article in the (Portland Press Herald) about a kid that had been training in the 300 hurdles ever since junior high, and that was the only event he did and that he was looking forward to winning a state championship. That gave me extra motivation going into that state meet. I remember beating him and I do remember that he was quite upset about it because it was his only event.”

As the years have gone on, Sergent said he has more appreciation for his record.

“I think as I get older, it’s a lot more gratifying,” Sergent said. “I respect it more, I enjoy it more as I get older. When I first got out of school, for the first 10 years, I didn’t think much of it. My father would keep track of it, or maybe some other family members would see it, but I wouldn’t really pay much attention to it. I still don’t, to a point. Obviously, when track season rolls around, I’ll look at newspapers. But the longer it goes — and the more I get out of shape — it’s a lot cooler to think back that I could run that fast, that I could do something that still holds up.”

It wasn’t just the track where Sergent was successful during his senior year. In the fall, Sergent led the Gardiner football team to a regional championship, before the Tigers eventually fell to Noble in the Class A final by a score of 35-7. Normally a wide receiver and safety, Sergent was used in a variety of roles during the 1997 season, gaining 1,538 all-purpose yards. He caught 34 passes for 886 yards and eight touchdowns, but was also used on occasion as a running back (44 carries, 329 yards, two touchdowns) and even a quarterback (5 of 5 passing, 157 yards, three touchdowns).

When the season was over, Sergent was chosen as the 27th winner of the Fitzpatrick Trophy — presented to the state’s top senior high school football player — beating out Tommy Waterman of Bangor and Rob Kierstead of South Portland for the award. Sergent is still Gardiner’s lone Fitzy winner.

“(Winning the Fitzy) was kind of a blur,” Sergent said. “I was so nervous during the banquet. I do remember (the finalists) that were there. One was Tommy Waterman, I played AAU basketball with Tommy, I knew him from playing hoops and football. And then the other was Rob Kierstead, and he was eventually my roomate my freshman year up at Orono. I knew both of them, but they had set us up on the stage. They tried to get us to eat before the ceremony, but I remember being so nervous that I couldn’t even eat. I kind of wish they had done the ceremony and let us eat afterwards.”

Sergent was recruited to play football at the University of Maine and saw some playing time during his freshman season. Unfortunately, poor academics forced him out of the program after his second semester. Sergent picked up his grades after spending time at the University of Maine at Augusta, and he transferred to Plymouth State University (then Plymouth State College) in New Hampshire before the 2000 season, hoping to take one more crack at a college football career. Sergent made it through the preseason and was on the roster for the Panthers’ season opener, a 24-10 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. In that game, Sergent had four receptions for 73 yards and two touchdowns. It would also be the final game of his career.

A week later, Sergent was ruled ineligible for the rest of the season due to a mix-up in his transfer paperwork from the University of Maine system.

“The transfer rules are very complex, and based on the information we had in preseason, we thought he was eligible and allowed him to play in our first game (Sept. 9),” said former PSU athletic director John Clark in a Sept. 21, 2000 statement. “We received additional information from one of the previous schools he attended, which we didn’t receive until last Friday (Sept. 15), and found that there was some question. We held him out of Saturday’s game (Sept. 16) until we found out for sure. Clearly in hindsight we didn’t do as thorough a review as we should have. We have self-reported this incident to the NCAA, and are following the proper procedures regarding ineligible players.”

Though Sergent wishes his college career could have gone differently, he has no regrets.

“If I didn’t become academically ineligible my freshman year, my path would have been different,” Sergent said. “I never would have met my wife, never would have had my kid. It’s not all bad. Obviously, I would have liked to have stayed in school, and I tell my son that all the time, because career choices are obviously a lot better when you stay in school.”

By the time he turned 21, Sergent began working for Maine Drilling and Blasting. He still remains in the blasting business, currently working for the Austin Powder Company. Now 39, he lives in Augusta with his wife, Vikki and their son, Parker, who is 14 and an up-and-coming basketball player in the area.

But 22 years later, Sergent still has fond memories of that senior year at Gardiner.

“That whole year definitely was a surreal year,” Sergent said. “I think I took it for granted when I was younger. I think most kids take their time in school for granted anyways. I definitely did, because a lot of what I accomplished and what my teams accomplished was almost expected. We expected to go far in football, we expected to have a great team. When track season came, I had won races my sophomore year in those events, then I won all four in the state meet my junior year, so I expected to win that. So it was almost taken for granted. I kind of look back on it wishing I had enjoyed it more. But I don’t really know how I could have, either, being 17-years-old. I think I enjoyed it as much as I could. It was definitely a fun time, because winning is always better than losing.”


Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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