AUGUSTA — Each year, former Cony coach Tom Wells begins the Scot Laliberte Invitational with a speech telling the hundreds of participants about the race’s namesake and the meaning behind the event he started after Laliberte died in a 2000 automobile accident.

Wells, who coached Laliberte, usually ends the speech by urging the runners to “Run for Scot.”

This year, before the starting gun for the 17th edition of the race, he also urged them to run for Taylor Harmon, the beloved Cony track (and assistant cross country) coach who died last October.

Yarmouth’s Luke Laverdiere already had that covered.

Laverdiere, who grew up in Augusta and had Harmon as a coach and mentor, won his second straight Laliberte Invitational on Friday at Cony High School.

“It’s a great race. I dedicated it to my former coach, Taylor Harmon,” said Laverdiere, a junior who moved to Yarmouth when he was in the sixth grade. “I ran hard for him. It’s kind of like a sense of closure. I knew I had to race for him.”

Laverdiere’s teammate, Abigail Harmon, also won the girls race for the second year in a row. Both helped Yarmouth make it a sweep for the second straight year with the team title in the preseason race.

“Overall, I think our team was stronger and a lot better than last year,” said Harmon, a senior. “I think we have a really good shot at repeating as state champions, so it’s really exciting.”

Heat and humidity are always factors in the race, so organizers shorten the course from the traditional 3.1 miles to 2.42 miles, especially since some runners may not be prepared for the big hill they encounter about midway through the course. Harmon said last year taught her to start a little slower and try to maintain an even pace throughout the race, but runner-up Anne Guadalupi of Cony lost sight of her fairly early.

“I would have loved to keep my eye on her just to see if I could catch her, but I started to base (how she was doing) off some of the boys and use it for a mental kick at the end,” said Guadalupi, a senior.

Laverdiere also opened up a big gap early on the rest of the boys’ field, although he said he didn’t feel very good for most of the race.

“I put in a lot of miles over the summer and a couple of running camps here and there but I haven’t really done any workouts. So I’m just entirely running off the base right now,” he said.

Messalonskee senior Zachariah Hoyle, who ran the course in the noon-time heat on Wednesday, finished third.

“I started out fast,” he said. “I felt okay. I felt pretty slow during some of the flatter stretches. I expected it to be pretty hot and the workout on Wednesday was practice for that. It didn’t work out as well as I wanted it to, but I’m proud of being in third. We have plenty of time to get better.”

Organizers, coaches and runners agree the final results are secondary to the race’s meaning to the cross country running community. Despite it being a preseason race, it’s considered one of the highlights of the cross country season.

For seniors such as Guadalupi, who won KVAC and Eastern A Class A titles and finished fifth at the state meet last year, it also marks the start of their final year of high school competition.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” Guadalupi said. “I’m actually just taking it all in because my sister (Cecelia) just came up to high school and I think I’ll have fun racing against her this year.”

Due to a computer malfunction, complete final results were not available at press time.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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