Follow the leader isn't just a game for the C. Milton Wright boys cross country team. It's the formula for building a tradition.
For the third time in four multi-team meets, the top-ranked Mustangs followed a first-place finish by their leader, junior Pat Bailey, to the team championship, besting runner-up and No. 2 Mount Hebron by 37 points at the 3-mile Harford Invitational at Tollgate Park in Bel Air yesterday.
On the girls side, eighth-ranked Mount Hebron edged North Hagerstown by nine points for the team crown, while Morgan Little of C. Milton Wright claimed her second individual title.
Bailey, who has won every invitational he has participated in except the Bull Run, allowed senior Izudin Mehmedovic of Oakland Mills to set the pace for the first 2 miles before bursting past the Class 1A state champion at about the 2 1/4 -mile mark.
Bailey, whose winning time of 15:26 tied a course record he set in last year's Harford County championships, said he ran conservatively to match up against Mehmedovic.
"I wasn't going too fast," he said, noting that his first-mile time of 5:10 was 20 seconds slower than his pace at the county championships. "The effort I had to put in wasn't a killer. It's not like I was dying out there."
As Bailey goes, so, too, does C. Milton Wright. Personal-record outings from junior Jesse Slowikowski (sixth place in 15:58), senior Will Murdoch (eighth, 16:08), senior Aaron Smith (ninth, 16:17) and junior Brian Eagan (16th, 17:04) powered the Mustangs to a convincing, 40-77 edge over the Vikings.
In the girls division, Little added a title to the one she captured at the Knights Invite in a winning time of 19:30. Trailing senior Melissa McCarthy of Mount Hebron for most of the race, Little surged ahead of McCarthy at the 2 1/4 -mile mark and never lost her edge.