Based on the field of outstanding runners and teams that flock to the Scot Laliberte Invitational each year, anyone who has a good day on the Cony High School course can walk away from the state’s premier preseason cross country meet feeling pretty good about the season ahead.

But what sets the Laliberte apart from other races — besides attracting close to 500 runners from two dozen schools, — is the race organizers’ mission, which is for everyone to leave Cony happy.

“We want the boys and girls competing to worry less about their times and place finishes and more about enjoying their first cross country experience of the 2015 season,” Cony coach Shawn Totman said. “We want all of the runners leaving Cony tomorrow with a smile on their face and an excitement about what the upcoming season will bring.”

The 16th Laliberte Invitational starts at 4 p.m. Friday.

Former Cony coach and race director Tom Wells started the race in 2000 in memory of former Cony standout Scot Laliberte, who died in an automobile accident on Mother’s Day in 2000. The race raises money for a $1,000 scholarship presented annually in Laliberte’s name.

Making sure everyone has fun and takes good vibes into the upcoming season doesn’t mean the race can’t be extremely competitive. Some of the top runners and teams in the state take part and are eager to measure themselves against the competition as the season looms.

The race also has a couple of twists that add to the excitement. For one, the course is shortened from the traditional 3.1 miles to 2.4 miles. Scoring is also different, with the boys and girls team scores combined to determine the overall champion.

“Scoring it this way really lends itself to needing a good day from your girls,” Totman said. “The last few Laliberte team champions have had top finishing girls teams even if the boys didn’t score so high.”

Brunswick won last year and should be among the favorites this year, Totman said, along with Yarmouth and Mt. Ararat. Last year’s runner-up, Mt. Blue, Maranacook, Morse, Cony, Messalonskee and Monmouth could also contend.

Anne McKee of Kents Hill returns to defend her title in the girls race. McKee, who finished second in 2013, pulled away from Brunswick’s Tessa Cassidy in the final 100 meters to win in 15:58.23.

Cassidy is slated to return to challenge for individual honors, along with teammate Tiffany Tanner, Anna Slager of Gorham, Katherine Leckbee of Mt. Ararat, Anneka Murrin of Yarmouth and Anne Guadalupi of Cony. Last year, Guadalupi finished third on her home course.

The boys will crown a new champion, with Gorham’s Jesse Southard, Yarmouth’s Luke Laverdiere, Messalonskee’s Owen Concaugh and Zachary Hoyle, Monmouth’s Luke Thombs and Andrew Levesque of Cony expected to contend.

Last year’s boys race went down to the wire. Lewiston’s Isaiah Harris and Mt. Blue’s Aaron Willingham dueled in the last 100 meters before Harris passed him in the final 30 to win in 13:17.76, about a half-second in front of Willingham.

Totman said another thrilling finish on Friday isn’t out of the question.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pack of boys dueling it out with 250-300 meters to the finish. I can’t wait to see that unfold,” he said.

The varsity runners will compete first, with the JV race scheduled to follow at 4:30 p.m.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33