GARDINER — Claudia Bailey attended the first Drive Out Cancer Challenge between the Cony and Gardiner field hockey teams 10 years ago.

A few months later she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

“It was scary at first because that first night they said it can be fatal,” Bailey said.

Saturday, Bailey was on hand as one of Gardiner’s honorary captains for the 10th annual challenge, which has since grown to include fall teams from both schools. She’s been in remission for the better part of nine years thanks to research and treatment that has helped millions make the disease more manageable, if not cured.

During player introductions, Cony field hockey coach Holly Daigle, left, high-fives goalie Emily Douglas, center, before the 10th annual Drive Out Cancer game Saturday at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders,” Bailey said of the day she learned she was in remission. “Complete joy.”

Six of Bailey’s grandchildren escorted her onto the field prior to the game. Jillian Bisson and Kassie Collins are members of the Gardiner field hockey team while assistant coach Kristen Collins was the point person for this year’s challenge. Grandsons Garrett Hinckley, Elijah Burns and Kameron Dearborn, all football players at the school, also participated.

Introducing cancer survivors, or honoring victims, has been part of the challenge since its inception. Joyce Perry, a 30-year breast cancer survivor, was also an honorary captain for Gardiner while Cony honored the memory of Barbara Jean Gesick Haskell, a former bookkeeper at the high school who succumbed to cancer. Several of her family members participated in the opening ceremony.

“It is incredible,” Gardiner coach Sharon Gallant said. “The first time we did this it was just the field hockey team. I think at that point we sent $5,000 to the Alfond (Cancer) Center. Now, we’ve included all of the fall teams.”

The schools and athletes have raised more than an estimated $100,000 to send to the Alfond Center in Augusta. The Cony field hockey team alone raised $3,200 this year with senior Anna Stolt raising $720 on her own.

“I’m so proud of the girls going out asking friends and family for donations,” said Cony coach Holly Daigle. “We really used the power of social media for the good on this one.”

The girls volleyball teams and boys and girls soccer teams played earlier this week while the football team played Winthrop later Saturday night.

The field hockey game itself was of secondary importance but nonetheless a necessary tuneup for the regular season that opens Thursday. After an evenly played first half, the host Tigers took control in the second half and pulled out a 1-0 victory on the strength of Haley Brann’s goal with 18:18 left to play.

“I still have a couple of spots I’m not totally sure of,” Gallant said. “Once we’ve got that down, I think we’ll be good to go.”

The Tigers out-shot the Rams 6-1 and held a 10-2 advantage in penalty corners.

Cony and Gardiner field hockey players compete in the 10th annual Drive Out Cancer game Saturday at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

They finished 12-2 in Class B North last year and should be among the top tier of teams again this fall. The Rams return just six players from a team that finished 7-6-1 in Class A North last year and are still evaluating players.

“I feel like we did a really good job of getting the ball to their strong side,” Daigle said. “We tried to transition the ball to our right and when we did we moved the ball up the field. This is going to be a good game to reflect on and kind of think about moving into our season opener.”

Gardiner’s Aimee Adams and Cony’s Kami Lambert were named players of the game.

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