East Ridge cross country: Raptors girls earn second in state, long-awaited trip to podium
The Raptors finished right where they wanted to.
In its fourth straight appearance at the Class AA state cross country meet - held Saturday, Nov. 2, at St. Olaf College in Northfield - the East Ridge girls team earned second place, celebrating on the podium and bringing a trophy back home to Woodbury.
“That is what we wanted,” East Ridge senior Bailey Ness said. “We’ve been shooting for that for four years now. I’m really excited for my team. It’s a really good feeling.”
East Ridge improved its finish in each of its four state meet appearances. Last year, East Ridge took fifth place in the state, sixth place the year before and eighth place in its first-ever state meet.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” East Ridge co-head coach Chad Cronin said. “There’s no shortcut to results like that, it’s hard work. Determination, focus and smart running is what got these young women there. It’s great to see them have this day. We’re very proud of them.”
Cronin said his squad was a true team and Ness called it a family. Both said that attitude played a part in the team’s success.
“You hear it all the time that this is an individual sport, but these girls turned it into a team thing,” Cronin said. “They pair up together, they work together and have a strong connection to each other on and off the race course. I think that’s really been huge.”
Senior Sandra Gramer agreed.
“Our top seven girls are extremely close and we all support each other wholeheartedly,” Gramer said. “We have each other’s backs no matter what. I think that’s what holds us so close together and what’s special about our team.”
East Ridge finished with 134 place points to earn second place at the state meet. The Raptors entered the meet ranked second in Class AA. Wayzata, the No. 1 ranked team, finished as the Class AA state champions with 37 points. The Trojans’ top seven runners all finished in the top 20 overall.
“Whenever you get ranked you feel the burden of that,” East Ridge co-head coach Lloyd Ness said. “The girls felt it, but I think it inspired them to work harder and go farther. They just said they wanted to make that podium and didn’t let it go today.”
East Ridge was led by all-state performances by Bailey Ness and junior Emily Betz. Betz was the first Raptors’ runner across the finish line, taking fifth place overall with a time of 14 minutes, 30.8 seconds in the 4-kilometer race. Ness, who was hampered by a hamstring injury, earned 21st place overall with a time of 14:45.4. The top 25 individual runners at the state meet earn all-state. It was the second straight all-state honor for Betz and the third all-state award earned by Ness.
“For me, it didn’t go as well as it could’ve, but you can’t always have your best race,” said Bailey Ness, who was ranked fifth in Class AA entering the meet. “Uphills, downhills it was painful. Hopefully it’ll get better soon.”
Lloyd Ness said, in addition to Bailey Ness’ injury, Betz was slowed with a foot injury, Gramer had a knee injury and two other runners had respiratory illnesses this past week.
“That even makes it that much more special,” Lloyd Ness said. “They just toughed it out and ran through it – every one of them. For them to finish second with all of that going on is that much more amazing. Those girls are just as mean as snakes. You don’t want to mess with them. They did a great job today.”
After Betz and Bailey Ness, junior Brenley Goertzen was the third-best East Ridge runner with a time of 15:16.9, taking 61st overall. Gramer earned 74th place with a time of 15:26.1 and sophomore Olivia Hummel took 83rd with a time of 15:31.7 to round out the Raptors’ top five. Additionally, freshman Megan Schiferl was 95th (15:35.7) and sophomore Anna Betz was 110th (18:03.1).
East Ridge reached the state meet after defending its Section 4AA championship, winning its third section title in the past four years.
East Ridge, which also earned a fourth straight Suburban East Conference championship title this year, won every meet it ran this season.
“In my eighth grade year if someone would have told me for my senior year we’d be on the podium as a team together I wouldn’t have believed them,” Bailey Ness said. “It was great to see what our team could do.”
The Raptors must now say good-bye to its two seniors – Bailey Ness and Gramer – who the coaches said were the team’s clear-cut emotional leaders.
“They both started when the school started,” Cronin said. “They meant so much to this team on and off the race course. They were so committed and put everything into this. Man, I’m going to really miss them.”