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Game of the Week: State Cross Country Meet this Saturday

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GAME OF THE WEEK

Who: East Ridge, Woodbury, Math and Science Academy

What: 2012 State Cross Country Meet

Where: St. Olaf College, Northfield.

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When: Saturday, Nov. 3, 10 a.m.

For many cross country runners, months - and in some cases, years - of hard work comes down to this.

A number of area distance runners will compete in the 2012 State Cross Country Meet on Saturday, Nov. 3, at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

The East Ridge girls cross country team is expected to be one of the top competitors in the Class AA girls race. Also, East Ridge's Nate Roese and Woodbury's Nick Wareham will run in the Class AA boys race, while Math and Science Academy's Jacob Siekmeier will run in the Class A boys race.

The East Ridge girls team reached a third-straight State Cross Country Meet, winning its second Section 4AA championship in history last week as the Raptors took back the section title from Roseville. East Ridge scored 53 points. The second-place Raiders scored 71 points. At sections, the top two teams and the next eight individual runners in the boys and girls race earn trips to State.

East Ridge is currently ranked third in Class AA. The Raptors girls have won nearly all of its meets this year, only finishing second twice this season - behind No. 1 Eagan and No. 2 Wayzata in separate races. East Ridge, which also won a third-straight Suburban East Conference championship this year, is led by the 1-2 punch of junior Bailey Ness and sophomore Emily Betz. Ness has been the Raptors' frontrunner since the school opened its doors in 2009 and has an All-State honor. However, this season, Betz actually edged Ness in two races. Last week, Betz continued her ascension toward the top of the best runners in the state, leading the way for the Raptors at the section meet with a second-place finish and a time of 14 minutes, 33.6 seconds in the 4K race. Ness earned fourth place with a time of 14:37.7. In addition to Bess and Ness, key runners for the youthful, but deep Raptors are sophomore Brenley Goertzen, eighth-grader Megan Schiferl, and junior Sandra Gramer. Also making the State Meet and running their final cross country races for East Ridge are seniors Taylor Jackson and Liz Maata.

Last year, East Ridge finished in sixth place after taking eighth the year before. At state, the top three teams earn trophies and medals and the top 10 individuals get medals.

In the Class AA boys race, Roese - a senior - will run his final high school cross country race, while Wareham - a sophomore - is just getting started.

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.

In 2010, Roese became the first boys cross country runner to earn a trip to the state meet. Last season Roese was hampered by an injury and fell one place fell just shy of State. Wareham advanced to State by taking 14th place overall in the Section 4AA Championship Meet. Last season the Woodbury cross country team was shutout of the State Meet, but this year, Wareham didn't let it happen again, running a time of 16:38.9 to earn a trip to the big dance.

In the Class A State Meet, Siekmeier, a longtime distance-running standout for Math and Science Academy in Woodbury, will compete in his final high school cross country meet as well.

Siekmeier - a senior - earned a fourth-straight trip to the State Meet by earning seventh place overall as an individual with a time of 16:51.9 in the 5K Section 4A Championship race.

In 2009, as a freshman, Siekmeier became the first Math and Science Academy student-athlete to qualify for a state competition. Last year, Siekmeier earned All-State honors for the second-straight year, finishing 25th overall Class A State Cross Country Meet.

The 2012 State Meet will be held Saturday, Nov. 3, at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The Class A boys race kicks off the event, starting at 10 a.m., with the Class A girls race starting at 11 a.m. The Class AA boys race begins at 1 p.m. with the Class AA girls race starting at 2 p.m.

At State, two team champions and three individual champions return to defend their titles from 2011.

The St. Cloud Cathedral boys (Class A) and the Stillwater Area boys (Class AA) are both in the hunt for their second consecutive titles.

Individually, senior Maria Hauger of Shakopee is looking to become the first Class AA runner to win four consecutive titles, while junior

Clare Flanagan is seeking her second consecutive Class A crown. Esko senior Marisa Shady, who took top honors in Class A in 2010, also returns, looking to improve on last year's third-place finish.

The boys race will likely come down to a pair of seniors who know each other well - Stillwater's Wayde Hall and Cretin-Derham Hall's Kevin Docherty. Hall edged Docherty in the Suburban East Conference and Section 4AA championship meets recently.

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