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East Ridge cross country: Raptors are champions once again

The East Ridge girls cross country team successfully defended its Suburban East Conference championship crown, winning the SEC championship race on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Falcon Ridge Golf Course in Stacy.1 / 2
East Ridge sophomore Bailey Ness became the Suburban East Conference champion at the conference meet winning the 4K race with a time of 14:29.2 / 2

It's starting to become a habit.

The East Ridge girls cross country team successfully defended its Suburban East Conference championship crown, winning the SEC championship race on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Falcon Ridge Golf Course in Stacy.

Last year, the East Ridge girls became the school's first-ever SEC championship team, edging distance running power Roseville by two points. This year, even without one of its top runners, East Ridge topped Roseville once again, by eight place points, to claim its second-straight SEC championship.

"It feels really good," East Ridge junior Taylor Jackson said. "There are really no words to explain it. I'm kind of speechless."

Led by Bailey Ness' first-place finish, East Ridge totaled 66 place points. Roseville, with 74 place points finished second, followed by third-place Forest Lake, with 77 points.

Ness, a sophomore, became the Suburban East Conference champion, handily winning the 4K race with a time of 14:29. Forest Lake seventh grader Alison Bartlett was the runner-up with a time of 14:32.

"This is the highest achievement we could get, so I couldn't ask for anything more," Ness said.

Along with Ness' first-place finish, the key to the win for East Ridge was its depth. All seven of the Raptors' varsity runners finished in the top 25 - out of 199 total runners. East Ridge's top five finishers, who were counted in the team's total score, were all in the top 22.

Freshman Brenley Goertzen was the second East Ridge runner to cross the finish line, in ninth place overall, with a time of 14:50 and Jackson took 13th place overall, third for East Ridge, in 14:55. Seventh grader Megan Schiferl took 21st in 15:07 and sophomore Abbey Beissler took 22nd to round out the Raptors' top five. Additionally, junior Elizabeth Maata took 23rd and sophomore Sandra Gramer earned 25th place.

"When I found out we won I started crying," Goertzen said. "I'm sort of the most emotional one on the team. This is really exciting."

East Ridge was without Emily Betz, the Raptors' No. 3 runner during the regular season, who was nursing an injury.

"We really thought Roseville was going to beat us today, because we didn't have Emily," Ness said. "We were OK with that, because the section race is more important. But, even without her, we still won. I think everyone amped it up a little bit."

East Ridge head coach Chad Cronin said each runner stepped it up a little bit to help fill Betz' void.

"Our top nine runners are really close together," Cronin said. "We're just really deep. Even if you take one runner out of it, we still have runners that can finish really high. It's good for our future, but it's also good for right now."

Running without its top runner in junior Nate Roese, the East Ridge boys took eighth place in the 10-team meet with 215 place points. With four runners in the top 10, powerhouse Stillwater won the race with 35 points.

Sophomore Ryan Schiferl led the way for the Raptors, finishing 22nd place overall in the 5K run with a time of 16:30.

"That was a great time by Ryan," Cronin said. "He's up there with the big dogs now. He really stepped up and ran fantastic."

Additionally, sophomore Nate Tigges had East Ridge's second-best time in 17:17, to earn 46th, sophomore Roman Faller finished 48th in 17:28, senior Tom Dierberger took 49th in 17:32 and sophomore Sam Scholz finished 50th in 17:32 to round out the Raptors' top five. Stillwater junior Eric Colvin won the race with a time of 15:15. Roese, who finished in eighth place last year, sat out of the SEC race to rest an injury.

"Nate was All-Conference in ninth grade and 10th grade and he didn't want to miss the race," Cronin said. "He's nursing an injury and he's not quite back. We hope it'll be better next week with rest though."

Next, the East Ridge girls will attempt to defend another of its title when it competes for a state berth at the Section 4AA race on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the University of Minnesota's Les Bolstad Golf Course. At sections, the top two teams and the top 10 individual runners in the boys and girls race earn trips to state.

Last year, East Ridge won the Section 4AA championship and Ness was the individual section champion. Also, Roese qualified for state individually for the Raptors.

Cronin said he hoped Betz and Roese would be able to run in the section race - the biggest meet of the year for the Raptors.

"Our real focus is next week and the section meet," Cronin said. "That's been our focus since the start of the year. We aim for sections. With the target on our back you have to live up to those expectations."

See additional photos in the Oct. 26 issue of the Bulletin