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East Ridge cross country: Raptors girls start with statement

For the past three seasons, the East Ridge girls cross country team has been on an upward trajectory. In its first meet this year, the Raptors picked up right where they left off.

To kick off 2012, the East Ridge girls took first place out of 31 teams at the season-opening St. Olaf High School Showcase on Aug. 31 at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

"We are happy with the strong start and the hard work this summer paid off," East Ridge head coach Chad Cronin said. "We had a lot running in the summer club and beyond. On both teams we've had the most miles ever as far as recorded miles put in over the summer. Along with that good base, the girls ran smart races en route to their big win."

The East Ridge girls cross country team has qualified for the state meet the past two seasons. The Raptors have been the Suburban East Conference champion the past two years, the Section 4AA champion in 2010 and the Section 4AA runner-up in 2011. East Ridge finished sixth in the state last year and in eighth place the year before.

In Friday's race, out of more than 600 girls, East Ridge's top five runners all finished in the top 25 overall as the Raptors totaled just 71 place points and a time of 1 hour, 18 minutes and 53.9 seconds to take first place. With 86 points, Chanhassen took second place. Suburban East Conference and Section 4AA rival Roseville was third with 160 points.

"It's really all the varsity girls and many others who have been working together and helping each other towards their goals," East Ridge assistant coach Lloyd Ness said. "It's a great group who has started the season well with this win."

East Ridge junior Bailey Ness led the way for the Raptors in the win. The All-State runner finished second overall in the 4K race with a time of 15 minutes, 6.4 seconds. Her time was eclipsed only by the ridiculous finish by Shakopee senior Maria Hauger, who won the race with a time of 14:02.8.

After Ness, East Ridge sophomore Emily Betz had the Raptors' second-best time, finishing in 10th place overall with a time of 15:33.7. To round out the Raptors top five, eighth grader Megan Schiferl earned 15th place with a time of 15:53.8, sophomore Brenley Goertzen took 21st place with a time of 16:08.4 and senior Liz Maata earned 23rd place with a time of 16:11.6.

In the boys race, East Ridge took 23rd place out of 30 teams. Cronin said some of the boys were coming off injuries, but that the team "had some good races."

Leading the way for the Raptors boys was junior Ryan Schiferl, who took 91st place overall with a time of 18:35.8 in the 5K race. Junior Roman Faller was the second Raptors runner across the finish line, taking 115th overall with a time of 18:57. Senior Nate Roese (19:01.9), junior Sam Boardman (19:08.8) and junior Christain Yonkoski (19:13.1) rounded out East Ridge's top five finishers, respectively.

Hopkins won the meet with 82 place points, followed by Minneapolis Southwest with 96 points. Individually, Cretin-Derham Hall senior Kevin Docherty won the race with a time of 15:58.7.

But, for Cronin, the first meet of the year was a success.

"With both teams, we are aiming for excellence; to be the best they can be on and off the course," Cronin said. "We are proud of the work ethic thus far."