Each year brings something unique into the fold at the USM New Year’s Relays. Some years, it’s a marquee name that competes in the event. Other years, it’s the quality of competition that defines the meet.

In its 12th season, the New Year’s Relays has one constant: there’s always a chance for high school track and field athletes to compete against an individual they may not see for the rest of the season.

“A lot of kids from our league (the SMAA) look forward to this,” said Thornton Academy Coach George Mendros, whose boys’ and girls’ teams will compete in this year’s event. “It’s good competition and an early-season mark to see where you are. If your goal’s to win a state championship, you’re getting some groundwork set up for where you want to be.”

A staple in the indoor track schedule, the USM New Year’s Relays begin at noon today at the USM Field House in Gorham. George Towle, the meet director and head track coach at Southern Maine, said he expects athletes from 20 schools to participate in this year’s meet — among those schools will be boys’ and girls’ teams and athletes from Scarborough, York and Falmouth — all of whom won boys’ and girls’ indoor state team championships last year.

“There’s several draws of the meet,” Towle said. “For a lot of the kids, it’s their first meet of the year, a non-scoring meet where they can try new things, but there’s not the pressure of meet scoring. It’s during vacation, and kids can focus on competing and it’s interconference competition. These are going to be athletes they don’t see each week.”

While the majority of the meet is in relay format, several individual events will be run, including the mile, the 55-meter hurdles, the 55 dash and the 1,600 racewalk.

With athletes from the SMAA, the Western Maine Conference and the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference competing, each of those events will include intriguing matchups. Scarborough’s John Gonzalez and Falmouth’s Will Wegener are the top two seeds in the boys’ 55 dash, a matchup that, otherwise, probably would not materialize until the New England Championships, as Scarborough is a Class A program and Falmouth a Class B program in indoor track.

Likewise, York’s Michaela Swiatek and Thornton’s Charlotte Pierce are the top two seeds in the girls’ mile run. Swiatek is from Class B and Pierce from Class A.

Telstar freshman Josef Holt-Andrews is among the entrants in the boys’ mile run. He finished third in the Class C cross country championships and will be part of a field that includes Scarborough’s Robby Hall and North Haven’s Charlie Jones.

“The competition makes you better,” Mendros said. “You probably wouldn’t want your top kids running another top kids every week, but this way you get a chance to see a showcase of different athletes in different events.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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