East Ridge cross country: Ness' finish only the beginningIn her first state cross country running meet, East Ridge eighth-grader Bailey Ness finished in 37th place overall with a time of 15:41.7 — just 12 places and less than nine seconds away from All-State honors.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, South Washington County Bulletin
What began with some severe butterflies turned into an ear-to-ear smile at the Class 2A girls state cross country meet.
In her first state meet, East Ridge eighth-grader Bailey Ness finished in 37th place overall with a time of 15:41.7 — just 12 places and less than nine seconds away from All-State honors.
Ness said she was nervous before the race.
“I felt like I was going to puke,” Ness said. “This whole week I’ve had butterflies in my stomach. In every practice I’ve been so nervous.”
Although her goal was an collect All-State award, which go to the top 25 runners in each race, Ness was pleased with the way the meet went.
“I’m happy — I’m good,” Ness said. “I just kind of wanted All-State. But, I’m happy with what I did.”
Last year, as a seventh-grader, Ness was the first alternate for the state-entrant Woodbury girls cross country team. After this year’s race, Ness was smiling and laughing with her former teammates from Woodbury, who again reached the state meet as a team.
East Ridge head cross country coach Chad Cronin said it’s always nice to see a smile on a runner’s face after a race.
“She looked happy about her time and her finish and how she did,” Cronin said. “She should be very proud of herself, because I know I’m proud of her.”
Ness said the state race was quite a bit more spirited than other races and said it was “definitely” the most physical race she’s ever run in.
“It’s very competitive and pretty harsh,” Ness said. “You had people trying to trip you and cut in front of you. Otherwise, it was fine. They just start off a lot quicker and everything is very competitive.”
Part of Ness’ running philosophy is to stay in the middle of the pack early in races, then kick it in at the end. Two weeks ago, Ness finished fifth at the Section 4AA meet to qualify for state although she was in 11th place with a little over a minute remaining. In the state race, Ness said she was around 70th with one mile left, but passed a large portion of the field down the stretch.
Cronin said he tried to follow Ness along the course — and saw her gain on the top group throughout the race.
“I got a little workout myself,” he said. “I got to see her three different times on the course. Each time I got to her spot, farther along in the race, she moved up in place. To see her move up and have a kick and the end at a race like this, with this many nerves, was great to see.”
Ness said seeing and hearing her teammates, fans and coach cheering her on motivated her to keep going.
“It helped a lot,” Ness said. “I loved hearing my teammates cheer.”
For the Raptors, Ness’ success is believed to be just the beginning.
For the girls, including Ness, the team’s top-five runners at the section meet were three eighth-graders and two freshmen. For the boys, the Raptors’ top-five runners at the section meet were three freshmen, one eighth-grader and one sophomore.
Cronin said he couldn’t have asked for more in the program’s inaugural year.
“This has been great,” Cronin said. “These kids are hard-working kids, who are fun to be around and who like being around each other. They’ve learned about a lot of things — not just running — and in the end have been successful in both areas. I just thought it was a really fun season. I hope it was fun for the kids.”
Cronin wasn’t ready to talk about the future, preferring to focus on the team’s — and Ness’ — current accomplishments.
However, immediately after the race, Ness said she was already thinking about next year.
“I definitely want to make it here next year,” she said. “Hopefully my teammates will make it here with me too.”