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East Ridge girls place eighth at Class AA meet

The East Ridge girls cross-country team sets out on its first full-squad run at the Class AA State Cross-Country Meet on Saturday. The Raptors finished eighth. Staff Photo by Tom Carothers.1 / 2
East Ridge freshman Bailey Ness claimed an All-State bid with a 13th-place finish at the Class AA State Cross-Country Meet on Saturday. Staff Photo by Tom Carothers.2 / 2

The sensational season that became the East Ridge 2010 girls cross-country campaign came to a satisfying conclusion on Saturday afternoon as the Raptors took eighth-place at the state Class AA meet in Northfield.

"They ran really well," coach Chad Cronin said of the team. "Our goal was to have fun and they told me they did."

East Ridge entered its inaugural state meet as the 11th-ranked team in Class AA, yet moved up three spots as freshman Bailey Ness earned an All-State selection by placing 13th in the overall standings with a time of 14 minutes, 55.8 seconds. All-State nods go to the top 25 placements at the state meet.

"I felt good," Ness said. "I got 12 hours of sleep last night. Lack of sleep is a mental thing."

Ness, one of two Raptor individual girls qualifiers, placed ninth amongst runners competing in the team event. Her placement was 24 spots better than last season, when she was the first-ever East Ridge cross-country runner to qualify for state, while her time was over a minute faster than in 2009.

East Ridge's other individual state qualifier, eighth-grader Brenley Goertzen, took 51st overall in a time of 15:28.1, which was also good for 28th in the team run standings.

"I liked the weather today, except for the wind," Goertzen said. "I thought we did really well."

Sophomore Taylor Jackson navigated the 4,000-meter course that ran along trails to the north of St. Olaf College in a time of 15:57.6, placing her 99th overall -- five spots ahead of teammate Abbey Beissler, a freshman, who took 104th overall in 15:59.2.

Eighth-grader Emily Betz claimed East Ridge's final spot that counted towards her team's 221 points with a run of 16:05.5 that netted her 112th.

"We are very happy with where we placed," Cronin said. "We were hoping for a top-10 finish, so to come in eighth was very special."

Also running for the fledgling East Ridge squad were sophomore Sarah Nesheim, who placed 141st in 16:34 and seventh-grader Taylor Rumpca, who took 145th in 16:37.4.

Cronin said that the Raptors, who didn't think of a state berth as a realistic goal until midway through the team's second season this autumn, finally allowed themselves to think of the possibilities in the years ahead for what was the youngest squad to compete at the state meet in 2010.

"We hadn't mentioned 'next year' until today," Cronin said. "There was only one other team here without a senior -- Monticello -- and they have three juniors. Our oldest runner is a sophomore."

Yet, while even greater glories may await this youthful East Ridge conglomerate, the coach said that they are going to wait to think more about that and fully appreciate this year's accomplishments.

"We are proud of them," the coach said about the girls. "We aimed for excellence and really peaked at the right time. We exceeded expectations."