Friday marks the unofficial start of the high school cross country season with the 17th annual Scot Laliberte Invitational at Cony High School.

The preseason meet starts at 4 p.m. with the varsity race for both boys and girls. Immediately after its conclusion, the junior varsity runners will take the course.

Former Cony coach and race director Tom Wells started the race in 200 in memory of Scot Laliberte, who died in a car crash on Mother’s Day in 2000. The race raises money for a scholarship presented annually in Laliberte’s name.

Teams from all over the state will bring roughly 400 runners to compete and celebrate the start of the season. Led by then sophomore Luke Laverdiere and then junior Abigail Hamilton, Yarmouth swept the boys and girls competition last year.

Organizers changed the race format last year to account for the August heat and the fact that its the first time most runners are hitting the trails competitively.

“It’s a little bit shorter race just because of concern that kids aren’t ready for 5k yet,” Cony coach Shawn Totman said.

The varsity race is 2.42 miles long (compared to the traditional 3.1) “but it’s really challenging,” Totman said. The JV race is 2.3 miles and run over a more flat course.

Augusta city workers and Totman spent the last several days preparing the trails, which “are in amazing shape,” Totman said.

The race is a good opportunity for runners to get a gauge of where they stand against this year’s competition, but taking hardware home isn’t the goal, Totman added. Organizers want participants, some of whom are running their first cross country race, to have fun and understand the history behind what Laliberte meant to Cony cross country and what the race means to the Augusta running community.

“There’s more meaning than who wins and who doesn’t, who comes in first or second,” Totman said. “Tom makes a speech before every race about it and the kids buy into it.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33