At first glance, it would seem a little odd for cross country runners to go from racing the championship-meet distance of 3.1 miles one week to two miles the next.
However, some of Eastern Maine’s finest runners will welcome that switch Friday, as a mixture of teams from the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Penobscot Valley Conference will head to Farmington for the Mt. Blue Relays.
Action starts at 4 p.m., and with this weekend being the last before the postseason starts, it’s a safe bet that a lot of the runners in the field won’t mind the two-mile distance.
“It’s actually a nice change, though, not that the course is an easy course, but it’s nice to do a shorter distance knowing that you’ve got the league meet coming the next week,” Mt. Blue coach Kelley Cullenberg said.
The scoring system is fairly simple: Five runners comprise a team’s score, just like in a typical cross country meet, with each runner running two miles and the total combined time of the five making up the team’s score.
It’s similar to the 4×800-meter relay in track and field.
“It’s interesting because the relays are five-person relays,” Cullenberg said.
Interesting in the regard that teams with strong frontrunners, such as Maranacook of Readfield with Abby Mace and Mt. Blue with Melody Lam, could get their teams off to strong starts.
Those two teams, along with Brewer, Brunswick, Bangor and Mount Ararat of Topsham will be right in the thick of things on the girls side, while Brunswick, Mt. Blue and Foxcroft Academy look strong in the boys’ race.
Things can get fairly congested since the boys and girls teams all go off at the same time, but coaches have always been reliable on getting their runner’s splits and turning them in to Cullenberg, which is how the times wind up being added.
“Virtually, we could have 60 different relay teams out there,” she said.
Mt. Blue’s course is very challenging, Cullenberg said, and features a couple of strong hills, while some sections are a tad muddy due to recent rains.
“Brian Kelly, my assistant, was out there [Tuesday]. There were sections that were in pretty tough shape. It’ll be a true cross country race,” said Cullenberg.
Awards are handed out to the fastest freshman, sophomore, junior and senior in the races, along with the runners who run the quickest times of the day.
Morse of Bath’s Jason Kaake will look to better the course record of 10 minutes, 46 seconds he established last fall, while Hall-Dale of Farmingdale grad Magen Ellis holds the girls mark at 13:05.
The meet also includes a postrace spaghetti dinner for athletes and coaches and theme music, and sometimes athletes get involved in musical acts.
“Last year one of the kids on our team and a couple other kids were in a band, and we actually had the [school] auditorium reserved and they played live music. It was pretty cool,” said Cullenberg.
In other high school action this week, Hermon High will host the Pendale Invitational, one of the oldest high school invitationals in the state.
Racing gets under way at 3:30 p.m. with the boys and girls combined junior varsity race, and the boys varsity going off at 4:15 and the girls at 5.
This meet should be a solid dress rehearsal of next week’s PVC championships, with contenders John Bapst of Bangor and Caribou looking to battle it out in the girls race.
Other teams attending include Calvary Chapel of Orrington, Hermon, Mattanawcook of Lincoln, Orono, Old Town, Penobscot Valley of Howland and Presque Isle.