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West Valley’s Naomi Bailey wins Gatorade Player of the Year honors as Alaska’s top Cross-Country Runner

Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 8:28 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Cross-country running was the first high school sport to return in the Fairbanks-area during the COVID-19 pandemic. All spring sports were canceled in March of 2020, which left participating student-athletes having to wait until fall for an organized season. As they adjusted and adapted to the continuously updated protocols - it was not perfect - but cross-country athletes were able to compete in two of the main events this season; the Region VI Championships, won by Naomi Bailey, and the Cross-Country State Championships, also won by Naomi Bailey.

The West Valley senior was rightfully recognized for her accomplishments during the condensed and complicated season. While the season may have been complicated, there was not much up for debate as for who was the top girls cross-country runner in the state.

Bailey was named the 2020-21 Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year for girls cross-country running as the best athlete in her respective sport.

At the 2020 Region VI Championships, featuring the top runners in Interior, Alaska plus Valdez, Bailey was in a league of her own. She paced around the Fairbanks Golf Course’s 5,000 meter circuit in 17 minutes and 48.6 seconds, over two minutes faster than the next competitor (19:52.0). With her Regional qualifying time over 30 seconds faster than the next competitor in the state, it was no surprise what she accomplished at the Cross-Country Running State Championships two weeks later. Bailey completed the Kincaid Park course in 17:56, 36 seconds faster than the runner-up. She finished 11th at State as a sophomore year and third her junior season before capturing the title her senior year.

Bailey receives the torch as the state’s best runner from former (and future) teammate Kendall Kramer, who three-peated as Gatorade Player of the Year and Division I State Champion. The duo will continue to dominate the trails together as Bailey is joining Kramer on the UAF XC running team.

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