Ari’el Godinez Long topped the field by more than a minute on a challenging 5-km course in Juneau to lead the Glacier Bear girls to a state championship berth in cross-country running.

The girls took second place in a tie-break in the Division III regional championships in Juneau on Saturday, Sept. 30, while the boys secured a third-place spot, good enough for them to punch a ticket to state championships in Palmer on Oct. 7.

Katie Russell, head coach of the Glacier Bears said Godinez Long’s win was expected, though the margin was up in the air. Russell said Godinez Long, a junior, asked for an update during the race of how far back her competitors were.

“It was pretty obvious from the beginning she didn’t have anything to worry about,” said Russell. “Ari’el knew what she needed to do.”

Ultimately, Godinez Long’s 20:35 finish was about a minute and a half ahead of her closest competitor, Alana Harrison of Wrangell.

Camelia Bell finished in 16th, and Willa Stuart finished in 18th. The team score ultimately tied Haines for second place, but the Glacier Bears won the tiebreaker thanks to Raven Hotch’s 31st place finish. (Ties go to the best sixth-place finisher on a team).

“I told them it was the perfect example of every person on the team counts,” said Russell. Hotch’s finished bumped the team up to second place, which Russell said exceeded the team’s expectations.

The boys team also exceeded their expectations, led by Andrew Hansen’s 9th place finish in 18:56.

Hansen’s feat was especially impressive considering it was only his second competition this year, and that he’d spent much of the previous week moose hunting.

Colin Aldassy clinched 15th spot, and JC Davis finished in 19th. The top 15 individual runners, plus the top three teams qualified for state.

Ari’el Godinez Long cruises into a first place finish for the second straight year. The junior is preparing for volleyball season. Photos courtesy of Klas Stople.

Ari’el Godinez Long cruises into a first place finish for the second straight year. The junior is preparing for volleyball season. Photos courtesy of Klas Stople

Russell said she was “really, really proud” of how the team had performed. The 12 athletes ferried to Juneau on Friday. They opted to sleep in a church instead of at the high school with the other teams to have fewer distractions, and caught the 7 a.m. ferry on Sunday to return home to Haines.

Russell described the course as “mostly flat” but with three short, steep uphills. “If you’re not good with hills, it’s a hard course to run on,” Russell said.

Russell said the kids returned home reenergized for another week of training after the successful competition, as well as a mini-vacation to the big-city shopping attractions of Juneau.

She also emphasized individual awards by Glacier Bear runners, including Willa Stuart and TJ Smith winning the Good Sport awards, and Raven Hotch getting an academic award for having at least a 3.0 GPA.