East Ridge cross country: Girls win section championship; Roese reaches State for boys
Don't call it a comeback, but the East Ridge girls cross country team is back on top.
The East Ridge girls reached a third-straight State Cross Country Meet, winning its second Section 4AA championship in history on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the University of Minnesota's Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul. Also, earning a trip to the State Meet from the boys team was senior Nate Roese.
"This was our goal," East Ridge head coach Chad Cronin said. "We have talked about this since last year. We are on track for where we want them to be and we are happy with the determination and focus of the girls team. They are very, very dedicated to this team and goal."
Last year, Suburban East Conference rival Roseville won the section meet, topping then-defending section champion East Ridge by a mere four place points, 61 to 65. However, at this year's meet, the Raptors took back the section title from Roseville. East Ridge scored 53 points. The second-place Raiders scored 71 points. White Bear Lake was a distant third with 115 points. At sections, the top two teams and the next eight individual runners in the boys and girls race earn trips to State.
Two weeks ago, the Raptors cruised to a third-consecutive conference championship, beating Roseville by 22 place points. However, Cronin said the team wasn't overconfident into the section race.
"Nothing is a given," Cronin said. "They handled the pressure well, ran together and ran a smart race. There were some nerves, even though it's been done before. But, they came out on top. It was fun."
For East Ridge, sophomore Emily Betz continued her ascension toward the top of the best runners in the state, leading the way for the Raptors with a second-place finish and a time of 14 minutes, 33.6 seconds in the 4K race. Betz was able to edge teammate Bailey Ness, a junior who has been the Raptors' frontrunner for the past three years. Ness earned fourth place with a time of 14:37.7 - giving East Ridge a formidable 1-2 punch.
"We've counted on Bailey all the time. Now we have two of them to count on," Cronin said. "(Emily) has handled that pressure really well too. They've been fantastic."
Betz battled injury last year, but was the Raptors' third-best runner at the section and state meet in 2011. Cronin said her development isn't shocking.
"She has it in her, but I didn't really know that she'd be leading races this year," Cronin said. "That confidence in winning a couple meets this year really boosted her. She's been healthy, thank goodness, and just solid. It's a bit of a surprise, but we knew she had it in her."
After Betz and Ness, sophomore Brenley Goertzen was the third Raptors runner across the finish line - taking 11th place overall with a time of 15:06.7. Eighth-grader Megan Schiferl (15:26) and junior Sandra Gramer (15:29.1) rounded out the Raptors' five scorers, taking 17th and 19th, respectively. Also making the State Meet are seniors Taylor Jackson and Liz Maata, who were 20th and 21st overall with times of 15:32.7 and 15:35.3. White Bear Lake junior Bethany Kozak won the race with a time of 14:26.0.
East Ridge is currently ranked third in Class AA. The Raptors girls have only finished second twice this season - behind No. 1 Eagan and No. 2 Wayzata in separate races.
Cronin said what stands out about the Raptors girls team is their work ethic.
"They are just workers and have had a very good focus on the season," he said. "I think it's because they realize they have the talent and ability to do this, but it's not a given. I think they've really taken that on themselves. That's been great."
Cronin noted his team's depth as playing a major role in its success. In addition to the varsity team winning the section, East Ridge's girls had the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 overall finishers in the JV section race. Freshman Olivia Hummel was first, freshman Anna Betz took second and junior Abby Beissler finished third.
Last year, East Ridge finished in sixth place at the State meet, one spot behind Roseville. However, the goal now is to finish inside the top three, which would garner a trophy and a trip to the podium at the State awards ceremony.
"Anything can happen when you get to State," Cronin said. "Once you get to state, they're all fast. It's a different kind of race, because of the quality. But, it's been our goal to get to the podium since last year when we were at State. We all looked at the stage and said let's get up there next year."
Roese returns to St. Olaf one more time
In 2010, East Ridge's Nate Roese became the first boys cross country runner to earn a trip to the state meet, finishing in fifth place at the Section 4AA Championships as a sophomore. However, last season Roese was hampered by an injury and fell one place fell just shy of State - taking 11 place overall.
This year, though, he's back.
Roese, the state champion in the 400-meter dash last spring, took fourth place overall in the 5K section meet with a time of 16:01.5.
"It was great to see Nate make it," Cronin said. "I thanked him for not leaving any question this year."
In the race, Roese was in roughly 20th and in a pack after the first mile. At the 2-mile mark, he had moved into about 10th place. At the final corner, he was in fourth.
"It takes some confidence to run your own race, maybe let the kids go out, not get swept up in the moment of a big meet and just be smart," Cronin said. "He ran a really smart race. That was fantastic."
In all, the East Ridge boys finished in eighth place with 205 place points. Stillwater won the meet with 26 place points, followed by White Bear Lake with 91 place points. Ponies' senior Wayde Hall was the individual champ with a time of 15:37.9.
For East Ridge, after Roese, junior Ryan Schiferl finished in 43rd place overall with a time of 17:39.1.
"Ryan was a very dependable runner and came through for us in a lot of meets," Cronin said. "When you have the top few people make it, it's a pretty elite group. Ryan is definitely moving up there. He's our top guy coming back next year and has done some great things for us."
Following Roese and Schiferl, junior Sam Scholz (17:45.2) took 46th place, freshman Jack Walter (18:06.1) earned 54th place and junior Aaron Gorden (18:18.1) placed 58th to round out the Raptors' top five.
The 2012 State Meet will be held Saturday, Nov. 3, at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The Class AA boys race begins at 1 p.m. with the Class AA girls race starting at 2 p.m.