Cony cross country coach Shawn Totman’s advice to his runners going into the Mt. Blue Relays wasn’t for them to pace themselves. Or attack the hills. Or give it everything they had.

He had a simpler message in mind.

“What I told them last night at practice, was I just wanted to see them have fun,” he said. “I want to see them with smiles on their faces.”

Messalonskee’s William McPherson, left, takes a handoff from Michael D’Amico during the Mt. Blue Relays on Friday in Farmington. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

The relays offer that chance. Situated right after the Festival of Champions and most teams’ final meets, but before conference and state championships, they provide runners a chance to exhale and relax a little before buckling down again for the biggest tests of the year.

“We tend to have big meets after big meets after big meets,” Totman said, “and it’s nice to have an event that the kids take seriously, but you can tell by the atmosphere, they’re here to have a lot of fun today and just enjoy themselves. I think that’s a nice break for them.

“They just love it. The whole atmosphere is just fantastic.”

Gardiner coach Jennifer Boudreau said that from the start of the season, her team was looking forward to Friday.

“They keep on asking every week, ‘Is this the relays? Is this relay week?’ ” she said. “(They like) that it’s not the normal. It’s just something that’s original. They like doing different things.”

Mt. Ararat’s boys “A” team, was the fastest group, followed by the Lincoln Academy boys, the Messalonskee boys, the Cony boys and the Bangor boys. Mt. Blue had the fastest all-girls team, followed by Mt. Ararat, Bangor, Maranacook and Cony.

Still, though, results came second as the teams embraced their chance to make Friday different. Some runners wore their own clothing, rather than the standard uniform. There were co-ed teams, and teams with parents running with kids. At the end of the race, runners who had finished lined both sides of the final stretch to form a welcome tunnel for those still on the trail.

“This is a great way to really tie up the early season, and get ready for the big postseason meets,” said Mt. Blue’s Kahryn Cullenberg, who was the first runner on Mt. Blue’s girls “A” team.

“It’s just where everyone can participate, and with each other too,” added Maranacook’s Sophie O’Clair, who anchored the Black Bears’ “A” girls team. “It’s all inclusive. Everyone can run together, and … it just makes it easier to enjoy running.”

The emphasis was on fun, but the runners still wanted to do well. There are some big races still to come, after all.

Cony’s Sam Coffin runs during the Mt. Blue Relays on Friday in Farmington. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

“We don’t take this as just an easy, fun meet,” Cullenberg said. “It is a lot of fun, but we definitely try our best to score as well as we can.”

Messalonskee’s Elijah Ross, who was the first runner on the Eagles’ “A” team but also the anchor runner on a co-ed team, said the approach changed from runner to runner.

“I think it can be as competitive as you want to make it. You have people that are setting course records today, and you have some people that are out for the fun of it,” he said. “I like the team aspect of it, where you get both boys and girls racing at the same time for the same position. I just like the overall competitiveness.”

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