Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Glacier Bears defend state champ title


October 14, 2021

The girls' and boys' Glacier Bears Cross Country team were cheered on by residents Monday after returning home as state champions. Matt Davis photo.

The Haines Glacier Bears cross country teams won the 2021 state championships in Anchorage on Oct. 9 and became back-to-back state champions.

Freshman Ariel Godinez-Long was the fastest among small-school runners with a time of 20 minutes and 31 seconds.

"It was pretty cool to run on the course that everyone had been hyping up all season," said Godinez-Long. "It was insane to run as a freshman and win. It was also cool to see all the teams there, because everyone worked so hard to get there and they all deserved to be there."

Sophomore Leo Wald placed second among small-school boys with a time of 17 minutes 47 seconds. He was only nine seconds behind Petersburg's Uriah Lucas.

The course at Bartlett High School consisted of three major hills, and lots of rolling terrain in between. Wald said he pushed up the hills and let his body relax on the way down. "I am very happy that I got second at state," said Wald. "I'm excited for future years of cross-country."

The Haines girls beat second-place Glennallen by 20 points. All of the girls placed in the top 30 with juniors Grace Long-Godinez and MacKenzy Dryden reaching the top 10.

The girls also received the Academic Award with a combined GPA of 3.91.

The Haines boys beat second-place Petersburg by six points. After a neck-and-neck battle, junior Galen Allen started the race behind two Petersburg runners. He passed one about halfway through the race, passed the other during the final 100 meters, beating him by three seconds.

Junior Eric Gilham also passed a Petersburg runner at the end to help the team win. Gilham was behind the runner at the beginning of the final kilometer.

"I didn't know he was in front of me until we reached the (last 100 meters)," Gilham said. "I noticed that he was slowing down, so I pushed it to the finish line and gave that extra bit of effort that he wasn't willing to give. I feel good knowing that, since I beat him, I was a driving factor in our team's success."

Many parents were on hand to watch the meet. Amber Long, mother of Ariel and Grace, supported the Glacier Bears during the race. "I am so proud of my daughters and the team," said Long. "Cross-country is a gritty sport, and to see each team member improve and literally fight for the finish despite injuries, travel, hail, lightning, and torrential downpours, is just fantastic."

Haines alumni Hannah Boron and Eli Williamson also cheered the bears in person. Williamson flew up from Jacksonville, Florida to surprise his sister, Avery Williamson, and the team.

"I was glad to have the opportunity to come up and see my sister and the rest of the team compete," said Williamson. "It was awesome to see Haines sweep state and I couldn't be more proud to be a Glacier Bear."

Much team support came from head Coach Jordan Baumgartner. He has helped the team become better athletes and people throughout the season, said several Glacier Bears.

"We had a strong team this year with thirty athletes, which is almost half of the student body," Baumgartner said. "It was fun to see the growth of all the runners both physically and in self-confidence. State was the cherry on top to our successful season. I hope our team puts the time in over the summer so we can do something even more special next year."

Baumgartner highlighted seniors Logan Borcik, Kaleb Jones, and Avery Williamson for their leadership and work ethic.

"I'm so happy that my last race got to be at state," said Jones. "It was such an honor to compete and win at state with the team this year. It was almost like a farewell gift, in a way. The team has also been like a second family though, so it's very bittersweet at the same time."

After the meet, the team celebrated with donuts from Anchorages' Golden Donuts and hamburgers from Red Robin. Baumgartner set up an athletic facilities tour with UAA cross country coach Ryan McWilliams.

McWilliams gave the team tips and information about becoming collegiate athletes, as well as access to the UAA weight room, rehabilitation room, locker rooms and indoor track.

The team flew home on Sunday and were greeted by celebrating community members at the airport. On Monday, the town saluted the athletes with a parade down Main Street complete with a performance by the local marching band. The state athletes rode on the fire truck and the other team members rode in the back of cars. Community members lined Main Street to cheer on the athletes and congratulate them on their win.

"It's inspirational. It's neat to see the community support," said parent Matt Jones, who watched the parade. "It's neat that the kids were able to do that and it shows some resilience and courage in the face of a challenging year."


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