Photo finishes abound as athletes step it up in Community Cup

SKOWHEGAN — It might not be an official championship meet, but for those competing in the Community Cup, it always feels like one.

Athletes always seem to step it up in this competition, the last before the true start of championship season. As a result, the events in this mid-late-May meet between Skowhegan, Lawrence, Maine Central Institute, Messalonkee, Waterville and Winslow, are often some of the toughest.

“That’s what the Community Cup is all about,” said Skowhegan’s Billy Albertson. “It’s like one super rivalry with all the teams. These are all local schools; We all hate each other equally and want to win, so we go all-out.”

That was apparent Friday afternoon in the number of tight contests on the track and in the field. From photo finishes to running events to jumping and throwing events decided by a matter of inches, this year’s Cup at Skowhegan Area High School saw competition at its closest.

The MCI girls won the team championship as they scored 160 points to runner-up Messalonkee’s 118 1/2. On the boys side, Winslow took home the trophy as it racked up 158 points to the second-place Eagles’ 143 1/2.

In the girls 100-meter dash in the final meet before championship season, Messalonkee’s Kiley Meader ducked her head across the line in the nick of time to beat out Waterville’s Allie Kimball for first place by 0.04 seconds. Then, in the boys race, Albertson beat out Lawrence’s Noah Lambert by a mere 0.05 seconds.

Albertson’s win in the boys 100 came as he tumbled — literally — his way to a razor-thin victory. The sophomore, who set a personal record with a time of 11.51 seconds, fell to the ground moments after crossing the finish line to win the event for the third time in as many tries this season.

Waterville’s Coltrane McRae competes in the triple jump at the Community Cup on Friday in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“I could see him in my peripherals, but I had no clue how close he was,” said Albertson, whose time was the third-best in Skowhegan school history. “I was just thinking that my finish had been really bad recently because I had been just twisting my shoulders and not really going for it, so I just decided to do a full send, and I fell right on my back.”

In the boys 4×100 relay, Lawrence (48.28 seconds) overcame Winslow (48.32 seconds) in a thrilling sprint to the finish. The Bulldogs’ winning relay leg came courtesy of Caleb Luckern, who, despite being winded after running the mile just a half-hour earlier, willed his way to the finish line to beat out the Black Raiders’ Jon Harvey.

“I was a bit tired, but it was a good handoff, so when I got it, I felt good,” Luckern said. “Usually, when it’s that close at the end, the guys with longer strides will get me, so I didn’t really know how close it was. It was a good race, and I’m glad it was close. That was a lot of fun.”

Luckern, though, wouldn’t limit himself to one tight finish. The Lawrence junior later won an extremely tight 800-meter run by an even closer margin as he crossed the finish line in 2:09.06 to edge Skowhegan’s Patrick McKenney by a mere 0.03 seconds.

Like Luckern’s 800 win, Meader’s 100 victory came after being involved in additional tight finishes earlier in the afternoon. The Messalonkee junior also took second in the long jump, in which she posted a distance of 14-7.25 to finish just an inch and a half behind Waterville’s Madison Yakimchick, as well as in the 200 and 400.

“This is only my second week doing long jumps, so I’m kind of still learning how to do it,” said Meader, who competed in a total of four events on the afternoon. “I’m supposed to have soccer practice after this, but I think I might skip today because I’m just too tired. I wanted to give it everything I had today.”

Maine Central Institute’s Samantha Martin tries to clear 8-6 in the pole vault at the Community Cup on Friday in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The day’s closest field competition came in the boys javelin, in which Winslow’s Stephen Spencer (127-7) beat out Waterville’s Julian Nabrowsky (127-6) by a single inch. In the boys shot put, MCI’s Owen Moore beat out Skoweghan’s Orion Dickenson by 4 inches (37-5 1/2 to 37-1 1/2).

As Albertson and Luckern attested, the final winner in many instances wasn’t clear until final times were shown on the board or official distances were posted to the results sheet. That was also the case with Meader, whose wait to see the her name displayed was an agonizing one.

“We were looking at it, waiting and thinking, ‘Wow, who won?'” Meader said. “We had no idea. It was that tight.”

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