The Lathrop High School boys team and the West Valley High School girls team raced to first-place finishes at the Interior Invitational cross-country running meet Saturday at the Birch Hill Recreation Area.

The event, sponsored by Lathrop High School, featured separate 5-kilometer runs for boys and girls teams. Racers in both categories completed two laps on the trails surrounding the stadium area of Birch Hill. Racers from 10 Interior high schools competed in the event.

The Lathrop Malemutes boys team compiled 22 points and the West Valley Wolfpack was second with 81 points. The North Pole Patriots came in third with 84, the Hutchison Hawks took fourth with 91, the Galena Hawks generated 98 points for fifth place and the Monroe Catholic Rams were sixth with 135.

The Wolfpack girls, despite the absence of some of their team, which was competing this weekend in the Kodiak Invitational, registered 34 points. The Rams were runners-up with 59, while the Malemutes finished third with 61 points and the Patriots were fourth with 67.

Sisters Naomi and Gloria Bailey ran to respective 1-2 finishes for the Wolfpack in the girls race.

 Naomi Bailey, a Wolfpack junior, pulled ahead from the starting line and continued to stay in front while going up the hill out of the stadium area. By the second lap, she had built a commanding lead on the way to a victory of 20 minutes, 25 seconds.

 “I tried to attack the hills and just let loose on the downhills,” Naomi Bailey said. “I planned to be conservative on the first lap and then go fast in the second, but that didn’t happen because they were right behind me at the start.”

Gloria Bailey, a sophomore at West Valley, was one of those who were close on Naomi’s heels and finished second in 20:58.

 “I did better than I thought I would,” Gloria Bailey said. “I had lots of competition from the Lathrop runners and from (Monroe Catholic runner) Katie Bast.”

The Malemutes’ Abigail Haas took third (21:03), while teammate Abigail Pilon placed fourth (21:41) and Monroe’s Katie Bast rounded out the top five in 21:53.

Nenana’s Andrew Stringfellow outpaced a pack of Lathrop runners to take first in the boys race in 19:02.

 Stringfellow, a senior for the Lynx, was in the lead for the entire race.

“It felt a little sad being up front alone. I like having someone to chase, but it also felt good,” Stringfellow said. “Lathrop put together a nice race and it’s beautiful out here.”

Stringfellow was followed by three Lathrop runners who finished within eight seconds of one another.

 The Malemutes’ Ben Pilon took second (19:14), while fellow runner Jack Snavely (19:20) was close behind in third and Jonathan Ebel was fourth (19:22).

Pilon credited his strong finish to his pre-race routine.

“I just tried to stay calm and composed,” Pilon said. “I didn’t focus on time, just on running for the heck of it and having fun.”

The Wolfpack’s Nicolas Buth was fifth in 19:23.

Malemutes head coach Chris Benshoof said his boys squad has a nice pack which runs together.

“They have a positive attitude and it’s nice to see their hard work,” Benshoof said.

The next high school running event will be the All Schools Meet, hosted by North Pole High School, at 10 a.m. Saturday at Chena Lakes Recreation Area in North Pole.

Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7586.

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