AUGUSTA — Shortly after 7 p.m. the banks of lights towering over Cony High School’s Alumni Field began to flicker.
As the sun faded behind the trees that cradle Cony’s track and field facilities, the artificial light only grew stronger, spotlighting the blacktop and the athletes competing on it.
“It’s kind of really mind-blowing,” said Gardiner Area High School’s Traevon Horton, who won both the boys 100 and 200 meters Friday at the Capital City Classic. “You know you have to do (well) and you do get a little bit nervous.”
By the time the meet’s final event took place, the boys 4×400 relay, darkness had completely engulfed the surrounding area. With every other event completed, teams lined up around the final turn to watch.
“The darkness creates a really great atmosphere,” said Caleb Jackson, who ran the anchor leg for Maranacook. “The best thing about it is having all the teams line up around the last corner.
“â€¦I loved it. I thought it was amazing. The atmosphere really made the whole thing.”
The Black Bears finished behind Lisbon in the 4×400, and that’s also how the final results went as well. The Greyhounds took the 12-team meet handily with 186.50 points, while Maranacook was second with 115 and Boothbay third with 61.
The girls’ side was much closer, however, as Cony edged Maranacook 108-91. Lisbon and Erskine placed third and fourth with 87 and 85 points, respectively.
“This is a team that is built for championship meets and when you get this many athletes, it shows just how elite our girls are and how competitive they are,” Cony coach Jon Millett said. “They did an amazing job tonight and we’re really proud of them.”
The win was that much more impressive considering the Rams managed to overcome a disqualification in the 4×100 relay.
Heading into the meet the 4×100 looked like it would be the meet’s most thrilling event — outside of the 4×400 under the lights — but it ultimately fell a little short.
Last week Gardiner raised some eyebrows with its performances in a meet at Mt. View, shaving about three seconds off its top time on the season to post a 52.12 — the fastest in the state so far.
“From the beginning (with) Gardiner we weren’t sure about their seed time,” said Erskine’s Jade Canak, who wasn’t the only one to question the time.
The Tigers’ competition were not the only ones surprised though, as Gardiner coach Hillary Wing was too.
“When we were at Mt. View I didn’t think anything of it to be honest and then I went on Milesplit and said â€˜hmm,” Wing said. “I don’t know if it’s a fluke or it was just that they were extremely fast that day? I don’t know.”
Either way, with Gardiner flanked by two teams with impressive seed times in Erskine (53.11) and Cony (52.90), the race was shaping up to be a great one.
Sarah Smith put the Rams in great position off the blocks, opening up a two-length lead over Erskine and Gardiner. Courtney King maintained Cony’s lead, but could not put any distance between her and Erskine’s Abby Haskell.
By the second hand off the Tigers were no longer within striking distance, while the Rams seemed poised to take the race fairly comfortably.
A fantastic third leg by Canak prevented that from happening though, and the two teams were just about dead even heading into the anchor leg.
“I was expecting to run against their fourth leg (Madeline Reny), who’s the fastest girl on their team,” Canak said. “I was going into it really pumped up and that was good. We needed to gain space no matter who I was running against.”
Canak expected to see Reny on the third leg — as that was what was listed on the heat sheet — but Reny said she never had any intention of running any leg other than the final one.
Erskine’s Christina Belanger did what she could to hang with the Cony standout, but ultimately Reny proved to be too tough — or so it seemed.
Unbeknownst to Reny, her team had been disqualified earlier in the race for a zone violation on what potentially could have been the fastest 4×100 time in the state so far this season.
“It happens to everyone,” said Reny, who beat her teammate, Smith, to win the 100 earlier in the day. “Anyone can get disqualified but we keep our heads held high.”
Instead, the win went to Erskine with a time of 52.77 while Gardiner finished a distant third in 55.57.
“Even though Cony got disqualified they ran a real great race,” Canak said. “It pushed us to have a really great race.”
Evan Crawley——621-5640 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @Evan_Crawley