AUGUSTA — Jon Whitcomb was in the middle of a race to remember. The funny thing is that the Hall-Dale High School senior thought he was running one to forget.

“I thought it was a terrible race,” Whitcomb said. “I didn’t think I ran fast at all.”

If the runners he was leaving in his wake weren’t convincing enough, the clock soon was. Whitcomb broke his own school record in the 110-meter hurdles at the I. Taylor Harmon Capital City Classic at Cony High School Friday, winning the event in 16.8 seconds.

“I was very surprised when I looked at the clock,” said Whitcomb, who previously set the school mark at 17.06 seconds Monday. “I had a bad start, I stood up under the blocks. I just had to move faster to make up for it.”

Whitcomb’s race, capping a busy day that also saw him compete in the pole vault, discus and high jump, highlighted a trend of Class C teams thriving with the opportunity to compete against bigger teams from Class B and, in the case of the host Rams, Class A. In the girls event, Monmouth was rolling to the victory at press time with 113 points, coming in ahead of Maranacook (74), Cony (54), Winthrop (54) and Lisbon (51).

“We get to run against different kids that we haven’t seen before and aren’t going to see, so there’s no preconceived notions about ‘This is the pecking order, this is what’s going to happen,’ ” Monmouth coach Tom Menendez said. “They’re the bigger schools, they’re the ones that are running faster than us, supposedly, so we get out there and measure up.”

In the boys event, Cony scored 131 points and at press time was holding off Hall-Dale (109.5) and beating Lisbon (62), Erskine (52) and Wiscasset (45).

For many Class C schools, the opportunity to face the Bs and As represented a glimpse at the big time with conference and state meets around the corner. If the larger sizes of some of the competing schools didn’t convey that message, the size of the meet — at 14 schools and more than 500 athletes, this was the largest Classic yet by more than 100 competitors — certainly did.

“Absolutely. The competitiveness of this meet is a lot greater than some of the other meets we have during the year,” Whitcomb said. “It’s a lot bigger, there’s a lot more talent. … I was definitely feeding off the energy.”

The size of the meet let some of the athletes from the smaller schools know that they were going to have to bring a little extra to the track. It was a challenge aced by Winthrop’s Jillian Schmelzer, who completed the 100-meter dash in 12.83 seconds — as a freshman, no less — to win an event that had seven different heats.

“I’m running with some really great competition,” she said. “A lot of girls running high 13s. It’s a great way to push myself out here. … Around 58 girls doing the 100? That’s a lot of girls in one event, so I knew I was going to have to bring my best time.”

Mahala Hayden, who won the discus for Monmouth, felt the stress of a larger meet as well.

“Because there are so many people, it gets overwhelming,” she said. “You have to wait for so many people to go before you can go, so you have to warm back up.”

Despite the different backgrounds and affiliations of the teams — most belong to the Mountain Valley Conference, while Cony and Gardiner compete out of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference — there was often a sense of familiarity between the competitors. Cony’s Cale Richardson won the 1,600 with a sparkling run that saw him pull away from the rest of the field, and said he knew that Wiscasset’s Brandon Goud was going to provide pressure throughout the event.

“I had raced that guy earlier in the weekend. He’s a great competitor, he did a really good job,” said Richardson, who like Whitcomb had a busy docket, running in the 800, 4×800 and 4×400 in addition to the mile. “It helps to know the competitors. I knew Brandon, so I was able to pace off of him. … It’s a control game of deciding where you’re at, who’s going to be around you and testing yourself to try to keep up with those people faster than you.”

The Cony boys came on strong in the sprints and relays, with James Olivier helping to lead the way with wins in the 400 and 300 hurdles. Cony also got a high jump win from Eli Dutil and victories in the 100, 400 and discus wheelchair events from Matt MacGregor.

“For Cony, since we’re one of the only Class A teams here, it’s more of a ‘This is our home ground, we’re running for our seniors,’ ” said Richardson, who also won the 800. “This is more of an end of the year for those of us that don’t qualify for KVACs, or start to the postseason for those of us who do qualify.”

Drew Bonifant – 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM