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Raptors running up the numbers

Emily Betz leads what should be a formidable Raptors’ girls cross country team this season. (Bulletin file photo)

East Ridge cross country co-head coach Chad Cronin leads a running club every summer. But he didn’t expect an influx of young runners to show up in June.

Apparently foreshadowing happens in real life, too, and not just in the movies.

Cronin is coaching a school record number of runners this season– some with experience in the state meet, and some who have never ran competitively.

“When I started [six years ago], we had what I thought was a large team with 42 runners,” Cronin said. “Here we are in our sixth year – well over a hundred. I think we have 115 or 120.

But Cronin is thankful for the depth and the culture it’s helping to create.

“It’s a luxury,” he said.

Cronin and co-coaches Lloyd Ness and Paula Gramer oversee both the boys and the girls teams. The Raptors girls will open the season in the top-ten in the state rankings, thanks in large part to five returning state participants.

Brenley Goertzen, Olivia Hummel, Megan Schiferl and Anna Betz all earned all-conference honors and qualified for state. Section champion Emily Betz earned all-state honors with a fifth-place finish and is back for her senior season.

“Brenley and Emily … their leadership and work ethic, leading by example, it’s been huge,” Cronin said. “To show ‘This is how we do it. This is how it’s done,’ [Goertzen and Betz] actually do it.”

The boys team graduated several top seniors, but Peter Betz was one of the top runners a year ago, and he’ll be back for his junior season.

Still, Cronin said he isn’t quite sure how the boys team is going to look this season.

“I think there’s going to be some shifting to see who’s going to be in what position,” Cronin said.

Though the season is just getting started, Cronin said he is keeping his runners focused on the postseason. And that might involve fiddling with the game-plan during the regular season.

“We might try out some different things,” Cronin said. “Maybe experiment with a little strategy early on ... Our real focus is on the conference, section and state meets.”