AUGUSTA — Running in his fourth and final Laliberte Invitational on his home course on Friday, Andrew Levesque admitted he had to keep his adrenaline in check and not go out of the starting gate too fast.

“Especially with the history behind this race, it definitely puts a little something extra umph it,” the Cony High School senior said. “Running this race for the fourth year in a row now, I kind of have a feel for it.”

The race can stir a lot of mixed emotions for the 400-plus runners from around the state who joined Levesque in kicking off the 2015 high school cross country season at the 16th annual Scot Laliberte Invitational at Cony High School. The preseason meet, held in memory of the late Cony cross country star, is a celebration of the sport, but also an early benchmark for top runners to get an idea where they stand going into the season. It’s also an emotional tribute to its namesake, who died in a car crash on Mother’s Day in 2000.

The race was a Yarmouth sweep. Sophomore Luke Laverdiere and junior Abigail Hamilton won the boys and girls race, respectively. On the strength of those performances, the Clippers won the team title, which was determined by an aggregate of boys and girls scores, beating defending champion Brunswick by 75 points and third place Mt. Blue by 137 points. Host Cony was fourth, followed by Gorham.

Boys and girls left the starting line together for the co-ed race, which involved 250 runners from 24 schools. Laverdiere crossed the finish line first in 13:19.60, 14 seconds ahead of runner-up Christopher Wallfield of Morse.

Zachariah Hoyle of Messalonskee finished third in 14:10.73.

Hoyle, a junior, credited his performance to a good, complete off-season training regimen.

“This is my first year of really summer training. Last year, I was trying to overcome an injury,” said Hoyle, who had a stress fracture in his foot in 2014. “This year, I’ve really been putting in the mileage over the summer.”

“It’s really good to see how fit we are, how we’re feeling, how we compare to other people,” Hoyle added. “This definitely gives me some confidence (going into the season). I hope that the paces I was running today will improve quite a bit throughout the season.”

Hamilton won the girls race — and finished 33rd overall — in 15:51.38, followed by last year’s winner, Anne McKee of Kents Hill (16:07.73).

Like Hoyle, Hamilton saw encouraging early results after putting more into her off-season training.

“Consistency was the biggest thing,” she said. “A lot of the time last year, there were days where I just didn’t feel like running. This year, I just made sure I ran every day and made sure I did little things like core and stuff like that.”

“Halfway through the race, I was feeling really good and decided, why not, just to push it,” she said.

McKee didn’t defend her title but wasn’t discouraged by the results because her training has gone well.

“I’ve had a lot more mileage this year than last year, so I’m feeling a lot more confident going into the season,” said McKee, who won last year’s race in 15:58.23. “My time was a bit slower this year than last year, but I’m not too worried about it. Every year is a different race.”

Other local runners with top-10 finishers were Luke Thombs of Monmouth (seventh) and Luca DeAngelis of Maranacook (ninth) in the boys race and Anne Guadalupi of Cony (fourth), Maggie Hickey of Mt. Blue (eighth) and Cony’s Talia Jorgensen (ninth) in the girls race.

The fourth-place finish was the best in coach Shawn Totman’s 11 years at Cony, an added bonus after a busy day making sure the season’s first big meet goes off without a hitch.

“I just thought our kids ran really hard today,” Totman said. “I think part of it was just the day. It was a perfect day to run. But we’ve had two great weeks of practices, so I’m not going to say I’m surprised by our finish but I will say I’m elated.”

The race is shorter than traditional cross country meets (2.3 miles compared to 3.1), but Cony’s course also presents a number of challenges to test runners.

While the race raises money for an annual scholarship awarded in Laliberte’s name, the organizers’ main goal for the runners is to end the day with a smile on their face, feeling good about running and the season ahead.

“If you watched every kid leave, I think that’s the gratification right there,” Totman said. “The coaches seemed pretty happy when they were leaving, too. It’s just a great way to launch the season.”

The race marks the beginning of the end in a sense for senior cross country runners, particularly those from Cony like Levesque to whom the Laliberte means so much.

“It’s definitely bittersweet to have this last one,” Levesque said, “but it’s nice to go out with a bang.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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