Cony runners Myles Quirion, left, and 131 Farkas run the first mile of the crowded Laliberte Invitational last year at Cony High School in Augusta. Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

Today will mark the 19th year Cony High School has hosted the Scot Laliberte Invitational. And neither the school nor cross country coach Shawn Totman have lost sight of why they do it.

The race essentially kicks off the fall season, and was started in 2000 to pay tribute to former Cony star Laliberte, who died in a car accident that spring. Even with the years that have passed since, Totman said Laliberte’s memory and impact as an energetic and dedicated athlete haven’t dimmed.

“We want to try to impress upon them the things that Scot stood for. That’s why we host it,” he said. “We want these kids to go out there and work really hard. We want them to have a great race, but the most important part is I want to see these kids, at the end of the day, with a lot of smiles on their faces and a lot of pride in themselves. That’s what this race is all about.

“Everybody’s competitive spirit kicks in. People want to do well, people want to win. But that really is secondary to what we’re trying to do with this race.”

Working hard isn’t a question. The race is only 2.4 miles long, shorter than the meets in which the runners will compete during the regular season. But as a preseason meet, the Laliberte race tests how well they conditioned for the fall season during the summer months. Some don’t do too well.

“There are going to be plenty of kids that are going to realize at the end of tomorrow that they probably didn’t run as much over the summer as they should have. My kids included,” Totman said. “But that’s besides the point. It really is just to get them to taste what this season has in store. This is a first step. This isn’t the end.”

The race annually draws some of the state’s best teams, and this year isn’t an exception, with Mt. Ararat, Brunswick, Maranacook, Lewiston and even Gorham, an hour-plus drive away, among the 20 squads making the trip.

“I think those are going to be the teams to beat,” Totman said. “We’re going to be missing a few kids tomorrow. If our kids run really well, who knows what we can do, but it’s going to be an uphill battle with some of the kids that we’re missing.”

On the boys side, 2017 Laliberte winner and Class A state champion Lisandro Berry-Gaviria of Mt. Ararat will be back to defend the victory. Cony’s Caleb Richardson and Maranacook’s Luke Bartol are among the standouts in the field who could give him a test.

In the girls race, Edward Little’s Jillian Richardson will be the favorite after finishing second last year, while Maranacook’s Molly McGrail, Gorham’s Iris Kitchen, Mt. Ararat’s Karli Leighton and Mt. Blue’s Kahryn Cullenberg will also be runners to watch.

And Totman said there are usually surprises that emerge as well.

“The great thing about this race is, every year, somebody else shows up,” he said. “Every year, there’s somebody that you just don’t know who will come in and they’ll be third, fourth, top 10, and you’ll go ‘Wow, this kid really put the time in.’ ”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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