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Freshman Brenley Goertzen helped the East Ridge girls cross country team finish in sixth place in the Class AA State Meet, held Saturday, Nov. 5, at St. Olaf College.

East Ridge cross country: Raptors girls take sixth in state meet

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The youthful East Ridge girls cross country running team continued to grow by leaps and bounds in 2011.

In its final meet of the year, East Ridge finished in sixth place in the Class AA State Meet, held Saturday, Nov. 5, at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

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The Raptors finished with 187 place points and a total time of 1 hour, 17.27 minutes in the 4K state race. Monticello, which placed second in 2010, won the state championship with 93 points and a time of 1:14:48.9. The Magic had four runners finish in the top 20 in this year's race to win the title.

Last year, the Raptors took eighth place in its first-ever state meet.

"We're really proud of the girls, going up to sixth place," East Ridge head coach Chad Cronin said. "We're very happy."

At state, the top three teams earn trophies and medals and the top 10 individuals get medals.

East Ridge junior captain Taylor Jackson said it was tough watching teams get trophies and medals after the meet and that it motivated her for next season.

"We're definitely happy with sixth place, but next year we're going to do even better," Jackson said. "We want a trophy. I'm a senior next year and I've never gotten a state medal. It's really my goal to get All-State or to have the team finish in the top three. We know what girls we have to shoot for. I know Monticello had three girls go sub-14 and we were all in the 15s. We're definitely going to be training hard this summer."

In the state race, the seven East Ridge runners - who are all underclassmen - finished less than 40 seconds apart.

"The fourth and fifth runners score points, too, obviously," Cronin said. "Our sixth and seventh runners were way up there too. Once again, our depth is what's different about this team. That's good for later, but excellent for now, too."

East Ridge sophomore Bailey Ness led the way for the Raptors at state with a time of 15 minutes, 9.6 seconds to take 20th overall in the team competition. Including individuals that made the state race, Ness finished 37th overall out of 158 runners, which was just shy of an All-State honor. All-State nods go to the top 25 individuals at the state meet. Last year, Ness ran a time of 14:55.8 to take 13th place overall and ninth in the team race.

"I'm just happy to be here and that my team got sixth," Ness said. "The whole team improved. I'm really proud of my team. Even though I didn't have my best race my team made up for it and we still got sixth, which is great."

Ness was the Raptors' top runner in each race this year and last year.

"I'm so proud of her," Cronin said. "She handles everything so well. We talked about our team having a target on them, well Bailey has the biggest target. People know who she is and they go after her. But, she handles the pressure so well. She's such a smart runner and such a team player. I can't imagine anyone being a better team player at the No. 1 spot like she is."

At state, East Ridge freshman Brenley Goertzen continued to creep up the ladder of the state's top runners. Crossing the finish line second for the Raptors, Goertzen took 25th in the team race and 46th place overall with a time of 15:16.0. Last year, Goertzen took 51st overall in a time of 15:28.1.

"She's come a long way," Cronin said.

Freshman Emily Betz had East Ridge's third-best time, 15:28.1, to take 34th in the team race and 67th overall. Betz was followed by junior Elizabeth Maata with a time of 15:46.1 and sophomore Abbey Beissler with a time of 15:47.4 to round out the Raptors' top five - who count to the team's point total. Maata was 53rd in the team competition and 93rd overall, while Beissler was 55th and 96th, respectively. Additionally, Jackson took 56th, and 97th individually, with a time of 15:47.7 and Megan Schiferl finished off East Ridge's runners with a time of 15:49.2, putting her at 60th in the team contest and 101st individually.

"It's nice because we have each other to compete with," Cronin said. "Brenley looks at Bailey and Emily looks at Brenley. These girls are right with each other and work together as a team. It makes it much more of a team atmosphere in this individual sport."

Jackson said the team is a close group.

"We all run together in practice, train together and pull for each other," Jackson said. "We're all like best friends."

In addition to placing well at the state meet, East Ridge also hoped to finish ahead of Suburban East Conference and Section 4AA rival Roseville. However, the Raiders managed to finish three points ahead of East Ridge with 184 points and a time of 1:17.27.8 to place fifth at state. Last year, East Ridge edged Roseville for the SEC and Section 4AA championships. This year, the Raptors beat Roseville for a second-straight SEC crown, but Roseville took back its section championship.

Cronin said the first thing the girls asked him was where they finished, but the second thing they asked was where Roseville placed.

"It's a lot of fun," Cronin said. "We have a really good rivalry going. It's going back and forth and it's always just a few points here or there."

Jackson said she enjoys the rivalry with Roseville.

"We're disappointed we didn't beat them, but there's always next year," Jackson said. "It's a lot of fun."

All seven of East Ridge's state meet runners are expected to return to the team next fall.

"Our team is just incredible," Ness said. "I'm really excited for next year and the year after, because all we're going to do is improve."

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