As the Community Cup founder, Lawrence High School track and field coach Tim Alberts knows the value of getting teams from the same neighborhood together.

Lawrence will host the annual event, which also draws Messalonskee, Skowhegan, Waterville and Winslow, on Friday, and while the schools are frequently at each other’s throats in other sports, Alberts said there’s a different theme when they get together on the track.

“When we call it a rivalry, it’s our school against their school through every sport that every kid in track has participated in,” he said. “Once you’re on the track, all those rivalries, all those feelings of ‘We beat you in football, you beat us in soccer or field hockey,’ all that stuff just really goes around and it’s all about camaraderie.”

The Cup won’t be the only area event this week with that community feel. Cony hosts the I. Taylor Harmon Capital City Classic on Friday, a sprawling 13-team affair that will pit Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference schools such as Cony, Gardiner, Erskine and Maranacook and Mountain Valley Conference teams like Hall-Dale, Monmouth, Winthrop and Lisbon against each other.

“This is the week where a lot of areas try to do this, which I think is a really cool thing,” said Shawn Totman, a co-coach at Cony along with Jon Millett. “We’re not rivals with them all, but you kind of are a bit, because for the next year you kind of have a little bit of bragging rights for the Central Maine area. I think a lot of teams approach it like that.”

And for the teams competing, the Cup and Classic will offer a big-meet feel that should serve well as a transition into the high-stakes conference meets that loom next week.

“This isn’t a championship meet like the state meet or anything like that, but this is a meet that people get up for,” Totman said. “It’s exciting. It feels like a championship meet.”

That feeling blooms when athletes from neighboring schools line up against each other. At the I. Taylor Harmon Capital City Classic, for instance, the Augusta runners, jumpers and throwers know the ones from Hallowell and Farmingdale, who know the ones from Gardiner, who know the ones from Winthrop and Monmouth and Richmond, and so on. When they’re at the same venue, there’s a little more excitement in the air.

“There’s no doubt, these kids, the way that social media is and the way that all of this stuff is reported online, these kids watch each other all year,” Totman said. “They know the other kids in the area, what they run, what they’ve thrown and jumped. These guys have an idea of who they’re going to be competing against. If they don’t know them personally, they know their names.”

It will be the same in Lawrence, at an event designed to show that a bond can exist between towns that are natural rivals.

“You see kids from opposite teams shaking hands and putting an arm around each other saying ‘What a great job,’ ” said Alberts, who spearheaded the effort to start the meet in 2005. “That’s what I wanted to see. I wanted to see our communities forget the fact that we hate each other in football or basketball or baseball, whatever it was, and realize we need to be closer. This was a chance for us to do that and be competitive at the same time.”

While the community feel is still strong, it’s far from the only incentive for athletes to be gunning for PRs and first-place finishes. Unlike the April and early May meets, when a bad day can be easily dismissed as such, the timing of Friday’s meets means that athletes are running out of chances to fix any flaws in their form or mechanics — or to even qualify — before the biggest competitions arrive.

“A kid from Messalonskee is up against a kid from Skowhegan, they’re looking at it from the perspective of ‘This is my competition for next week,’ ” Alberts said. “It’s a chance for a bunch of kids who are on the bubble to hopefully get their way over the top. What better way to do that than to have a championship-style meet?”

As opposed to previous years, in which Waterville would consistently dominate the meet, Friday’s competition should be tight. Messalonskee and Winslow are the defending girls and boys champions, but significant graduations from those squads brought the programs back more to the pack. There is also the promise of state champion hopefuls, a group including Skowhegan’s Leah Savage (Class A champ in the high jump and triple jump), Messalonskee’s Emma Wentworth (Class A champ in the 100) and Winslow’s Max Spaulding (Class B champ in the 300 hurdles).

“Now the field is much more open,” Alberts said. “It’s made for, I think, a much for enjoyable time for all. No one really knows who’s walking away with it this year.”

At the I. Taylor Harmon Capital City Classic, Cony should be a championship hopeful in the boys meet, along with Lisbon, Mountain Valley, Maranacook and Erskine. On the girls side, Monmouth, Maranacook and Cony might be the favorites, but Totman said that can be a difficult game to play.

“You never until it’s game day,” he said. “If I had a scouting report and I knew what every kid’s times were for every single thing, as soon as the gun goes, those things go out the window.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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