Over the last 10-plus years, Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast has hosted one of the Northeast’s top high school cross country invitationals, the Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions.
This fall, the top teams from all over New England will congregate on Maine’s midcoast for even bigger bragging rights.
On Wednesday, it was confirmed that Belfast’s fast yet challenging 5-kilometer course will play host to the 2017 New England interscholastic championship meet in November.
Belfast athletic administrator Terry Kenniston confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Belfast is hosting the meet.
“We’re really pleased that the state and the New England Association has recognized that we run a quality event and they thought that highly of us if it was coming to the state of Maine, this is the venue we wanted to use,” Kenniston said.
The meet returns to Maine for the first time since 2012, when it was held at Cumberland’s Twin Brook Recreation Center.
The last two New England championships to be held in Maine were both at Twin Brook. Maine also hosted the 2002 meet at Portland’s Riverside Golf Course.
Last fall’s championships were contested at Thetford Academy in Vermont.
The 2016 Northern Maine regional and state championship meets were both held in Belfast, with the Festival of Champions drawing runners from 72 schools, including seven teams from outside of Maine.
Since 2002, Belfast has collaborated with Brewer High School to put on the Festival of Champions meet, founded by the school’s respective cross country coaches, Jo-Ann Nealy and Glendon Rand.
The Festival of Champions meet is arguably the largest one-day high school sporting event held in Maine.
The Belfast layout is a spectator-friendly cross country course, as spectators are able to see runners multiple times by watching the race near the start-finish line.
“It’s a great venue to be able to see runners in so many different spots along the course,” said Kenniston.
“We’ve got great people who have done this for years who have it down to a science,” he added.
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