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Raptors runners benefit from large numbers

The East Ridge cross-country teams likely will not have any problem with depth this season.

Between the boys' and girls' teams, head coach Chad Cronin said the Raptors cross-country program has more than 100 runners out for the team this fall.

"Our purpose on this team is to strive for excellence in all that we do," Cronin said. "In the short time since the start of the season, we can tell these student athletes have already caught that spirit. It's going to be an amazing fall of running and representing East Ridge."

The girls' cross-country team will have new faces in the lineup this year after graduating a handful of experienced seniors. Among the graduates are Megan Schiferl and Daniella Del Toro, who both were on the team since they were seventh-graders, and Paige Stearns, a four-year participant. In 2016, the East Ridge girls' team finished fourth in the Suburban East Conference championship and fourth among Class 2A, Section 3 teams.

"Certainly, those runners' presence on the team will be greatly missed for their efforts on and off the race course," Cronin said.

With a deep team, the Raptors expressed confidence that new faces will mix in with the returning varsity runners.

"Like I mentioned, it's difficult to replace those spots especially since they've been filled by the same runners for so many years," Cronin said. "However, I really think we will have some smart racing by some new and returning runners. We are very optimistic after seeing the work thus far."

The boys' team will have the opportunity to build with a core of experienced runners after graduating just one varsity runner from last fall — Matthew Rukunga. The 2016 boys' team finished seventh in the SEC championship meet and sixth in the Class 2A, Section 3 championship race.

The returning runners have put in some offseason miles to help build a base for the season.

"Yes, we definitely have a nucleus of high mileage, hard working guys this year," Cronin said. "We are getting deeper. Many of the boys have put in a lot of work; they are looking forward to racing. I've seen some smart pacing. They seem to be focused, particularly on those postseason meets."

Among the returning runners at East Ridge are last year's individual state qualifiers in junior Joseph Reimann and senior Abby Witte. Both have once again set some big goals this fall.

"They're healthy and have put in summer mileage," Cronin said. "In the first week or so here, I've seen some grit, from these two, in the tougher workouts. They already have their long range sites on the postseason meets after a successful season last year. It's exciting to see."

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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