Naomi Bailey

On a day when most teams were out of their element, the Nanooks were right at home in the snowy climate of Billings, Montana.

Fairbanks’ Naomi Bailey was victorious at the West Regional Championships, leading UAF to a seventh-place finish.

Coming off a hand-in-hand 1-2 photo finish at the GNAC championships two weeks ago, Bailey and Kendall Kramer, also of Fairbanks, were prepared to face the best in the west.

With temperatures in the low-20s and wind blasting around 16 miles per hour, the competition would not be the runners’ only challenge on the course. Donning headbands, tights and gloves, the Alaskans came prepared to contend for the coveted national qualifying spots.

Kendall Kramer

After sticking with the lead pack for most of the race, Bailey broke away from the field with two kilometers to go. She increased her margin ever so slightly until she crossed the finish line, winning the 6-kilometer race in 20 minutes, 53 seconds (5:36 per mile) — five seconds ahead of Kramer.

The former West Valley stars were the lone competitors under the 21-minute barrier, as Chico State’s Marissa D’Atri claimed third (21:05) and UAF’s Rosie Fordham, who hails from Australia, placed fourth (21:06).

By placing the top-5 individually, Bailey, Kramer, and Fordham all punched their tickets to the national championships in two weeks, which will be held at Chambers Bay in Washington. This will be the second-consecutive trip to nationals for the trio, who bettered their 4-5-6 finish at regionals one year ago.

Trio of UAF Nanooks. Photo by Tobias Albrigtsen.

With her first-place finish at regionals, Bailey becomes the first champion from UAF and first from the GNAC conference since UAA’s Emmah Chelimo in 2019.

Anchorage’s Delainey Zock, formerly of Dimond High, ran 22:47 for 73rd. Fairbanks’ Abigail Haas, a Lathrop High grad, secured a personal-best in 24:26 to finish 143rd in her regional debut, rounding out the Nanook’s scoring squad.

The sole Alaskan competing for UAA was Palmer’s Sofija Spaić who finished in 23:38 (117th) — just five seconds shy of her personal best, and as the third Seawolf across the line.

Palmer’s Sophie Wright, who competes for Western Washington, finished 37th (22:07).

Homer’s Audrey Rosencrans, a senior at the Academy of Art, took 55th (22:31).

Vanessa Aniteye

Eagle River’s Vanessa Aniteye, a sprinter-turned-cross-country star for Seattle Pacific, crossed the line in 69th (22:46).

The UAF women placed seventh out of 25 teams with 221 points, while UAA finished in 22nd place. Stanislaus State (91 points) edged Chico State (93 points) for the title.

On the men’s side, UAA’s Cole Nash of Colorado was out-dueled by Simon Fraser’s Charlie Dannatt in the final kilometer for the West Regional title.

Nash completed the 10-kilometer course in 30 minutes, 10 seconds — three seconds behind first. With his top-5 placement individually, he secured an auto-qualifying spot to the national championships.

Racing only four male athletes, the UAF men were unable to field a scoring team, but still represented members from the 49th state.

Ryan Owens

Palmer’s Ryan Owens finished in 145th, while Fairbanks’ Josh Baurick (148th) and Jack Cater (149th) — both West Valley alumni — rounded out the trio.

UAA men finished seventh in the 21-team field.

At the South Central Regional Championships, a handful of Alaskan athletes were in the field, with a few making their debut at the 10-kilometer distance, also in wintery conditions.

Kaleb Beloy, a South High grad, led the quintet with his 52nd-place finish, running 32:47 for CSU-Pueblo. The sophomore was the fifth scorer for the ThunderWolves, who placed sixth out of 25 teams.

Keith Osowski

Kodiak’s Keith Osowski, a senior at Black Hills State, covered the course in 33:33 to finish in 70th. He crossed the line as the fifth scorer, helping the Yellow Jackets to a 12-place showing.

South High star Brady Burrough made his regional debut placing 87th in 34:08. He was the fourth scorer for Fort Lewis as they placed just two points ahead of Osowski’s team in 11th.

Anchorage’s Sebastian Sweda Mittelstadt placed 152nd in his regional debut. The Service High grad and dual sport athlete was the fifth runner for Westminster (Utah), as the team took 23rd.

Aiden Zingone, formerly of Grace Christian, completed his inaugural season for Lubbock Christian in 153rd. He finished less than one second behind Sweda Mittelstadt, and as the team’s fifth scorer.

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