BELFAST — The 20th annual Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions — which welcomes high school runners from throughout the Pine Tree State and beyond — is slated to return close to its regularly-scheduled format.

About 1,500 racers will traverse the 3.1-mile course on Saturday, Oct. 2 at Troy Howard Middle School, one year after the race was substantially altered and allowed only a fraction of its typical field due to COVID-19.

The largest high school sporting event in the state is a preview of sorts for the conference, regional and state championship meets, which highlights standout individual and championship teams from schools large and small.

The event is co-hosted by Belfast and Brewer high schools.

The boys race will include 851 runners and girls 668, including Midcoast distance athletes from Belfast, Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, Camden Hills of Rockport, Searsport and Oceanside of Rockland.

However, those numbers are still “down about 500 runners compared to 2019,” said meet director Glendon Rand of Brewer High School.

He added: “There are just four out-of-state schools compared to the usual 10-12 and the Maine schools seem to have smaller rosters.”

“The 20th Maine XC Festival of Champions will once again feature top runners and teams from Maine and three other New England states,” said Rand. “While meet management has implemented some COVID-related safety measures, athletes will still experience competitive races and the spirit and camaraderie of past editions of the meet.”

The event takes roughly 30 volunteers to run, comprised largely of BAHS parents and students.

Teams from Belfast, Camden Hills, Oceanside, Medomak Valley, Searsport, Bangor, Bangor Christian, Biddeford, Bonny Eagle of Standish, Boothbay-Wiscasset, Brewer, Brunswick, Bucksport, Cape Elizabeth, Caribou, Cheverus of Portland, Cony of Augusta, Cumberland, Deer Isle-Stonington, Dexter, Edward Little of Auburn, Ellsworth, Erskine Academy of South China, Falmouth, Fort Kent, George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill, Gotham, Gould Academy of Bethel, Gray-New Gloucester, Hampden Academy, Hermon, Houlton/Greater Houlton Christian, Hyde School of Bath, John Bapst of Bangor, Kennebunk, Kents Hill of Readfield, Lake Region of Naples, Lawrence of Fairfield, Lisbon, Lewiston, Lincoln Academy of Newcastle, Madison, Maine Coast Waldorf School of Freeport, Maranacook of Readfield, Marshwood, Massabesic, Mount Desert Island, Messalonskee of Oakland, Monmouth Academy, Mount Blue of Farmington, Narraguagus of Harrington, North Yarmouth Academy, Old Town, Orono, Poland, Portland, Presque Isle, St. Dominic Academy of Auburn, Sanford, Scarborough, Skowhegan, South Portland, Sumner of Sullivan, Waterville, Windham, Winslow, Winthrop, Yarmouth and York are scheduled to participate.

Burrillville High School of Burrillville, R.I., Harwood Union High School of Moretown, Vt., Mount Saint Charles Academy of Woonsocket, R.I. and Cumberland High School of Cumberland, R.I. are the out-of-state teams to participate. In the past, teams from Canada also have participated.

The girls unseeded section will begin at 11 a.m. and boys unseeded at 11:40 a.m.; girls freshmen section, 12:20 p.m.; boys freshmen section, 1 p.m.; girls seeded section, 1:40 p.m.; and boys seeded section, 2:20 p.m.

The THMS building will not be available to runners, coaches or spectators and the award ceremony to follow — at roughly 3 p.m. — will take place outdoors.