Glacier Bear boys’ runners finished toward the front and the girls’ team gained some valuable experience at the state cross-country championship Saturday at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.

Finishing in 18:14, senior Blake Hamilton placed 18th of 101 boys competing in the small-schools category. He led teammates Quinn Asquith-Heinz (22nd, 18:21) and Corey Piper (43rd, 18:59). Hamilton’s run was his third in the state championship, and his best finish.

He said he looked at the hilly course and devised a strategy. “It’s a ski hill. I knew for every uphill, there was a downhill. I used the downhills to recover and build up momentum to push up the next one. Overall, it was a good race. I pushed myself.”

Assistant coach Heather Lende said Hamilton and Asquith-Heinz had “terrific” runs and that Piper showed promise, catching some runners in front of him. “You have to pass people the whole time at that race. Corey could be a top 10 runner. He’s talented and he works hard.”

The Glacier Bear girls, who qualified for state as a team, had a rougher go of it. The hills and slippery conditions made the Bartlett course challenging, they said. All but team leader and senior Jolene Lemieux finished farther than halfway back in the field.

“It wasn’t what I expected. It was really hilly,” said Lemieux, who finished 36th of 107 runners in the girls’ race, the first Glacier Bear in. “I added two minutes to my time. If I would have gone out stronger, I could have taken a minute off my time.”

Her teammates had similar stories. The girls placed ninth of 10 teams in their division. “It was muddy,” said freshman Serena Badgley. “In places your feet would slip a lot. There were lots of hills and they made my time slower. It wasn’t really hard, but it wasn’t really the normal race course.”

Sophomore Jess Giddings (62nd, 24:43) finished second for Haines, followed by junior Maggie Daly (70th, 25:10), Badgley (76th, 25:29), sophomore Tia Heywood (96th, 28:02) and junior Elena Horner (98th, 28:11).

Lemieux said the race was a good eye-opener for younger runners. Lende said she was proud of the squad. “That race is so high powered it can scare the wits out of runners. It’s character building to run in a race like that when you’re not in contention. Our girls look good. They look like runners. They just have to go faster.”

Only Hamilton and Hunter Badgley are graduating from the boys’ team this year, and only Lemieux from the girls’ squad. Recruits next year will include eighth-grader Zayla Asquith-Heinz, who trained with the Haines boys this year.