Soldotna High School's Ari Goldstein runs to a win in the 1600-meter event last spring at the borough championships.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Soldotna senior Ari Goldstein loves running. Running has continued to love her right back.
Goldstein signed a national letter of intent this morning to attend the University of Nebraska on a cross country and track and field scholarship.
Nebraska, which has one of the top track and field programs in the country, offered Goldstein a full scholarship. However, since Goldstein carries a 4.0 grade-point average, 40 percent of her scholarship will be academic and 60 percent will be athletic.
Goldstein, the two-time state cross country champion and winner of the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at last year's state track meet, turned into a prized national recruit despite being from Alaska, where the track season is short and athletes often run in frigid temperatures.
Soldotna track and field coach Mark Devenney said that of the top 20 track and field programs in the country, 10 or 12 sent Goldstein information.
She narrowed the choices down to Arkansas, Alabama and Nebraska, visiting each of those schools in October. Each offered her a scholarship.
In the end, Goldstein decided to sign during the early signing period with the Cornhuskers. Devenney, who was a track coach at Nebraska for nine seasons, said the fact that Nebraska picked up Goldstein in the early signing period speaks to how excited the Cornhuskers are to have her.
A women's track program has just 18 scholarships, and schools normally like to see athletes run track during their senior season before doling out precious money.
"Those of us who are around track and field know what it means to have somebody sign early," Devenney said. "That speaks well for Ari."
The Nebraska women have been in the top 10 at 15 of the last 22 NCAA Indoor Championships and in the top 10 at 13 of the last 23 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The women also have won 19 of the last 24 indoor conference championships in the Big 12 and former Big Eight Conference. Outdoors, the women have taken 16 of the last 24 titles.
Goldstein said she never made getting a big-time scholarship a goal. Her success stems from two simple but all-important things.
"I like to run, and I like to win," she said.
Her parents, Candy and Stu, also said they never set out to get their daughter a scholarship. Stu said he still is mainly grateful for two things about his daughter's career that she was lucky enough to be healthy enough to participate in running, and that she was lucky enough to enjoy the friendships that have stemmed from her career.
Devenney said he saw Goldstein run in eighth grade and knew she had the heart it takes to be a competitor. However, it wasn't until after Goldstein's sophomore year in cross country that he knew that she had the competitive will to make sacrifices for running.
During her sophomore year, Goldstein's training laid the groundwork for her breakout junior year, where she won the state cross country title and swept the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at state.
Goldstein gets up at 5:30 a.m. to lift weights during the school year and is religiously dedicated to getting in her training runs, no matter the weather or temptation to do something else.
"I don't really look at it as a sacrifice," Goldstein said. "I like running that much."
If that sounds odd, Devenney said that's no accident.
"I've been around a lot of really good ones," he said. "They're all different."
Jay Dirksen, the head cross country coach and assistant track coach in charge of distance running at Nebraska, saw that something different when he visited Goldstein this summer.
Projecting how good an Alaska distance runner will be can be difficult because of the short seasons, the cold weather and the difficult cross country courses.
"Jay saw Ari run on film when he was here," Devenney said. "I explained to him she was running 32 to 35 miles a week. He sat in my living room and said, 'That's who I want.'"
Goldstein admits she still thinks a coach is going to call her up and tell her it's all a mistake and that the scholarship will go to somebody else.
She said she owes her success to her parents, coach, teammates and her sister Rachel, who is on a partial skiing scholarship at Montana State and showed Ari the ropes early in her career.
"Going to school and getting a scholarship was never a goal, it was an added bonus," Goldstein said. "I just wanted to keep running because I love it."
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