Glacier Bear runners notched strong performances against larger schools Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain in Saturday’s home cross-country meet, including a down-to-the-wire dogfight for first place in the men’s race between senior Luke Davis of Haines and junior Edgar Vera of JDHS.

Davis jumped out to lead after the first of the race’s two laps starting at the state fairgrounds parking lot, but Vera stayed only a few steps behind, passing Davis during a climb through the fair’s gravel pit about a kilometer shy of the finish.

Davis said he stayed within about 60 feet of Vera before starting his kick to the finish, but Vera wasn’t ready to surrender. The official results gave Vera the edge but timed both racers at 17:55.

Davis and three teammates – sophomore Ari’el Godinez-Long, sister senior Grace Long and senior Eric Gillham – will get a taste of big-city competition at the Palmer Invitational this weekend while a dozen other Glacier Bears will square off against the Vikings and Valkyries and their guests at a meet in Petersburg.

The team has more than two-dozen runners.

Cross-country coach Jordan Baumgartner said the Palmer meet includes teams from as far away as Seattle and will provide an opportunity for the team’s best runners to develop strategy for races like the regional and state championship meets.

“Luke (Davis) has never had much of a chance to chase people and catch people in a race. This will give him a chance to see what a big race is like,” Baumgartner said, noting that Davis needed to start his kick earlier against Vera Saturday. Palmer’s crowded meet should be beneficial for Davis and Godinez-Long, particularly, he said.

Godinez-Long, the top Glacier Bear runner, finished third in the women’s race in 21:02, behind Etta Eller, 20:41 of Juneau-Douglas, and teammate Rayna Tuckwood, 20:51.

She said the team’s first home meet in four years offered advantages and disadvantages. “In one aspect, it’s easier because you have more fans and encouragement but there are also more eyes that you care about, so it’s more stressful,” Godinez-Long said.

Like several of her teammates, she struggled through the gravel pit, a deceivingly long hill on a loose rock surface. “The pit doesn’t seem like a hill until you start running it,” she said.

An earlier course design incorporating wooden boardwalks through the CIA subdivision was scratched due to slippery surfaces there, said coach Baumgartner. He said that Haines typically has offered more grueling courses than other towns.

“People don’t come to Haines to set (personal records). You’ve got to work for it here,” he said.

Baumgartner said he was encouraged by a big turnout of spectators and fans Saturday. “That made it a lot of fun.” He noted that the race was the first for some new runners on the team. Grace and Ari’el both improved and freshman J.C. Davis shaved a minute off his best time.

With 58 points, the Haines women finished second behind Juneau Douglas, 18 points, and ahead of Thunder Mountain’s 62 points. Fifty-four runners finished.

Women’s race finishes for Haines included: 3) sophomore Ari’el Godinez-Long, 21:02; 7) senior Grace Long, 22:34; 19) senior Avari Getchell, 25:02; 22) senior Sally Chapell, 25:31; 33) sophomore Ila Nettleton, 29:22; 37) sophomore Willa Stuart, 29:37; 39) sophomore Ashlyn Ganey, 30:18.

Haines finished third in the men’s meet with a score of 61, behind winners JDHS (23 points) and Thunder Mountain (53 points). Seventy-four runners competed.

Glacier Bear finishers included: 2) senior Luke Davis, 17:55; 10) sophomore Andrew Hansen, 19:12; 20) sophomore Dalton Henry, 20:21; 21) sophomore Phoenix Swaner, 20:27; 25) sophomore Hayden Jimenez, 20:35; 29) senior Eric Gillham, 20:48; 31) freshman J.C. Davis, 20:53; 34) senior Phoenix Jacobson, 21:07; 35) freshman Colton Combs, 21:11; 40) sophomore T.J. Smith, 21:46; 41) sophomore Collin Aldassy, 21:53; 56) sophomore Rylan Jorgenson, 24:15; 57) senior Jacob Weerasinghe, 24:31.