OAKLAND — Friday morning was years in the making for the Messalonskee track and field team.

Decades, even.

The Eagles had their first home meet since the 1980s, a three-team competition with Skowhegan and Belfast at their two-year-old turf facility. And in the process, the program checked off a long-standing box on the list.

“It’s incredible,” Messalonskee coach Matt Holman said. “Once it became evident that it was going to happen, the kids were very excited. The community was excited. … We’re really happy about it.”

Holman’s athletes were just as enthused about the opportunity to finally be the home team, and have a home base for the program.

“I’ve been looking forward to running on this track. We got it my freshman year, and didn’t really get to use it,” said junior Kiley Meader, who won the 100- and 200-meter dashes. “It’s just so awesome to be able to have our first meet on our home track. … We’d practice on it all the time, and it’s like ‘I’m ready to have a meet on it!'”

“It’s absolutely so nice. We have this big facility, now we can actually train on it, and do the actual things (in a meet),” added junior Tieran Croft, who finished first in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles. “We didn’t have pole vault pits, we didn’t have high jump mats. … That’s really nice, to have somewhere close to home. Before, we’d have to travel at least an hour to every meet we’d go to.”

The Eagles had to wait all these years to play the hosts, and then their patience was tested further. They would have hosted in 2019, but persistent rainy weather throughout the spring soaked the area for the field events. Then, after last spring and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, people in the program began to wonder if this would ever happen.

“We’ve been building toward this for years now, with the facility being here,” Holman said. “(We’d say) ‘We’re going to host a meet this year,’ and then there were issues with the facility. ‘We’re going to host a meet this year,’ and then there was COVID.

“And then it was like, everyone was kind of cautious. Are we going to have this meet? It’s early season, is there going to be snow still? Is it going to get canceled? There were all these things that we were unsure of, and holding back our excitement.”

Meader said Holman liked to refer to Messalonskee’s facility as the “oldest new track in Maine.”

Messalonskee hurdlers Tiernan Croft, left, Meil D’Amico and Cody Knox compete in the 110-meter hurdles during a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference track and field meet Friday in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“I’ve been waiting for this,” senior distance runner Charlotte Wentworth said.

In addition to having a home venue for competitions, Messalonskee’s facility has also given the Eagles a sort of headquarters. No more having to train in the gym and parking lot, or borrow Lawrence High School’s and Colby College’s tracks for practice time.

“It was begging and scraping and hoping and asking for favors,” Holman said. “That’s how we got it done. … All the area coaches wanted to help us out. They knew what we had for a situation.”

Being able to host a meet, Holman said, adds legitimacy to the program, and could pay off in the years to come as well.

“We’ve got the middle school using the facility now, too, for their track team, which I’m hoping will really boost our numbers,” he said. “The freshmen class has to get up here and realize that track’s a good sport and has a lot to offer, and that takes a year or two sometimes.

“With the middle school getting used to the facility, with the youth programs getting used to the facility, there’s a lot of attraction for any athlete to want to do this sport here.”

Girls take off from starting blocks for the first leg of 4×100 meter relay during a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference track and field meet Friday in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The athletes that were there Friday, from all three schools, were happy to break in the new venue. Even as gusts blew and the wind chill dipped below 40 degrees to start, athletes knew they were making important steps toward the bigger meets in May and June.

“I think it’s really nice to have an early meet, just to see where you are as an athlete, and see where you need to improve on things,” Meader said.

“(You) get started and get your times in, and kind of get a feel for what you like to do,” Wentworth said. “No one’s times are that great in the first meet.”

Skowhegan’s Elzadie Parker won the shot put, discus and javelin, laying the groundwork for what she hopes will be more success later in the spring.

“These meets are very important for me. I see the competition, I get to learn how the other coaches are coaching,” she said. “I prefer to try to be (at) the top in my first meet. In my first meet, that is always my goal. And I can focus on technique later.”

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