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East Ridge freshman Emily Betz and the Raptors girls cross country team reached a second-straight state cross country meet, finishing in second place in the Section 4AA championship.

East Ridge cross country: Raptors girls reach second state meet

sports Woodbury,Minnesota 55125
Woodbury Bulletin
East Ridge cross country: Raptors girls reach second state meet
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

It wasn't exactly what they wanted, but it'll do.

The East Ridge girls cross country team reached a second-straight state cross country meet, finishing in second place in the Section 4AA championship on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the University of Minnesota's Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul.

At sections, the top two teams and the top 10 individual runners in the boys and girls race earn trips to state.

Suburban East Conference rival Roseville won the meet, topping the defending section champion Raptors by a mere four place points, 65 to 61. White Bear Lake finished in a distant third with 102 points.

"The girls are disappointed they didn't win it," East Ridge head coach Chad Cronin said. "It was pretty close. But, I feel like they're going to have their chance again this week. We're pretty proud of them and very happy. It would have been icing on the cake to win it, but really the goal is to get back to state."

Last year, East Ridge edged Roseville, which was the defending section champ at the time, by one point. Two weeks ago, East Ridge successfully defended its SEC championship crown, beating Roseville by eight place points.

"I congratulated Roseville's coach and she kind of slugged me in the arm and said 'we have a pretty good rivalry going here,'" Cronin said. "I told her we get to do it one more time next week."

The difference in this year's race was made mostly by Roseville juniors Sammy Nielsen and Allison Cordes. Nielsen, who took fifth at the conference race, finished in second place in the section meet and Cordes, who was fourth at the conference meet, took third at sections.

"Nielsen really stepped it up," Cronin said. "They were hungry and they were definitely focused on us. You have to give them credit, their coach had them very well prepared for that race."

East Ridge sophomore Bailey Ness, who won last year's section race and this year's conference championship, led the way for the Raptors in the race, taking sixth place overall with a time of 14 minutes, 58 seconds. Ness was followed closely by freshman Brenley Goertzen, who had a time of 15:00 to take ninth place. Freshman Emily Betz, who returned to the team after sitting out the SEC meet with an injury, came in 14th place overall with a time of 15:22.

"It was kind of stressful trying to decide if she was healthy enough to run or not," Cronin said. "She was released medically and really wanted to run. I asked her if she felt incredible, not just OK, and she said she did. We made a race-day decision and she came through and ran a great race."

After the top three, East Ridge junior Taylor Jackson took 17th place overall with a time of 15:30 and seventh-grader Megan Schiferl took 19th place with a time of 15:34 to round out the Raptors' scoring five runners. However, sophomore Abbey Beissler and junior Elizabeth Maatta also each finished in the top 25, taking 20th and 24th, respectively.

All seven girls will run in next week's state race.

Cronin thinks East Ridge's strength of depth will help in the state meet.

"If you have a 10 second gap between two runners in a meet, but there's nobody in-between, that's only one point," Cronin said. "But, at state, there's going to be a number of runners close together, so there will be more points between runners."

The state meet will be held on Saturday, Nov. 5, at St. Olaf College in Northfield. East Ridge and the Class AA girls race will kick off the day at 10 a.m.

Last year, Eden Prairie edged second-place Monticello 69 to 79 for the Class AA state championship and East Ridge finished in eighth place with 221 points.

At the 2010 state race, Ness earned an All-State selection by placing 13th in the overall standings with a time of 14:55.8. All-State nods go to the top 25 placements at the state meet. Goertzen was the second Raptors runner across the finish line, taking 28th with a time of 15:28.1. Shakopee's Maria Hauger won the race with a time of 14:18.9 as a sophomore.

Cronin said the second-place finish at sections could be used as motivation at this year's state meet.

"I think they're going to be really ready and focused for the state meet," Cronin said. "They're really hungry, so that's really good. We're not satisfied just to make it to the state meet. Our goal is to place pretty high in this meet. They're looking forward to it."