The big meets are back.

Many central Maine high school track and field teams will compete in the Community Cup and Capital City Classic meets, which in the past have served as good tuneups for the championship events that follow.

Cony will host the Capital City Classic at 3:30 p.m., Friday while the annual Community Cup is slated for 10 a.m., Saturday at Messalonskee.

“We’re thrilled to be able to host (the Capital City Classic),” Cony coach Shawn Totman said. “It’s one of the meets I know our kids and coaches and teams from the area look forward to every year. The fact that we get it back after two years is really exciting. To us, it’s one of the meets we circle at the beginning of the year. To us, it feels like a championship meet, and we want that feel for the kids as everybody goes into their league meets and state meets in the next week or so.”

The Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Mountain Valley Conference championship meets are scheduled for next week at various venues. State championship meets are scheduled for June 5.

Cony, Gardiner, Erskine, Hall-Dale, Maranacook, Winthrop, Monmouth and Lisbon will compete in the Capital City Classic. Skowhegan, Lawrence, Waterville, Winslow and MCI will compete in the Community Cup on the new turf facility at Messalonskee.

“It’s probably a little extra special for us, because this is about the third year we’ve been looking to host it,” Messalonskee coach Matt Holman said. “We were looking to host it two years ago, but our fields were not ready, so we ended up going back to Lawrence. Obviously, last year was last year (with the pandemic). This year, not only is it back to having the competition, but hosting it for the first time, is going to be real special.”

Skowhegan’s Grace Greenlaw works out during practice Thursday in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Hall-Dale coach Jarod Richmond said the Capital City Classic is one of the most anticipated meets of the spring.

“(The Capital City Classic) is our favorite meet of the year,” he said. “The kids love it, the coaches love it. I don’t think that’s just our team, I think that’s every team that participates in it. It’s a fun night, it’s a big meet. Every year, you circle it on your calendar as something you want to do well in and win at. We always break our calendar down as, everything is preseason until that meet because after that, it’s championship season.”

The Cup and the Classic bring out the best in geographic rivals, but there’s added motivation this weekend because fewer athletes will compete in conference and state meets. For example, in the KVAC meet, the top 16 athletes will participate in lane events, with just 12 qualifying in every other event. Each event at the state meet will feature the top 24 athletes as opposed to 32 in a normal year.

“There’s an excitement that the kids get to compete,” Winslow coach Ken Nadeau said. “I know I’ve been talking to my kids ‘Hey, this is a three week championship.’ It’s the Community Cup, but it’s the first step to the next couple of weeks. It’s our last real opportunity to get qualifying times for states, last opportunity to improve our times and distances for KVACs. It’s a big meet. It’s the last chance that kids really get to do what they’re supposed to do in order to move on to the next stage.”

Members of the Skowhegan High School track and field team stretch before practice Thursday in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Added Holman: “This year has been an interesting year from a qualification standpoint, because there’s no standards for KVACs. The top 16 (in the lane events) move on. What you get with that is, there’s no guarantees. You can’t sit on a time at the beginning of the year that maybe qualified (in a previous year). You have to make sure you’re in the right position in the top 16 in your event. We’re kind of going dual-purpose there. We’re trying to secure conference championship spots and place as high in the meet as possible.”

Even with some late-season pressure to perform, coaches say their teams are thrilled for an opportunity to compete in these meets after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the 2020 spring sports season.

“It’s funny, I think the kids are still in that cautious, what’s-going-to-happen phase,” Holman said. “As things continue to happen, as hoped and as promised and thought, it’s building momentum. It’s starting to feel like a real track season.”

“We’re going to try to make it as great an event as we can for these kids, because they’ve earned it,” Totman added. “It’s been a long, long year or so for these kids, and we just want it to be a great experience for them.”

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