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Junior runner Bailey Ness returns to the top of the Raptors depth chart this fall. Ness has been East Ridge's top runner for the past three seasons.

2012 Fall Preview: Experienced East Ridge girls cross country team eyes third state berth

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Arguably the most successful team in East Ridge's first three years of existence returns to the field of play this fall.

The East Ridge girls cross country team - which has qualified for the state meet the past two seasons - is back, boasting a lineup full of experienced, high-end runners. The Raptors have been the Suburban East Conference champion the past two years, a Section 4AA champion in 2010 and a Section 4AA runner-up in 2011.

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"After the last two seasons of state teams and many conference award winners, we're no longer under the radar," East Ridge fourth-year head coach Chad Cronin said. "We are looking to stay strong and hopefully improve on that great foundation."

East Ridge finished sixth in the state last year and in eighth place the year before.

Junior runner Bailey Ness returns to the top of the Raptors depth chart this fall. Ness has been East Ridge's top runner for the past three seasons. A three-time All-Conference honoree, Ness has qualified for the state meet as an individual three times and helped East Ridge reach the state meet twice by winning the individual Section 4AA championship in 2010 and finishing in sixth place in 2011.

Other top returners to the Raptors' roster are: sophomore Brenley Goertzen, sophomore Emily Betz, junior Abby Beissler, senior Liz Maata, senior Taylor Jackson, eighth-grader Megan Schiferl and junior Sandra Gramer.

Last year, Goertzen was the Raptors' second-best runner, reaching the state meet as an individual by finishing in ninth place at the section meet. Betz, who returned to the team after sitting out the Suburban East Conference championship meet with an injury, came in 14th place overall in the section race. Jackson and Schiferl rounded out the Raptors top five at sections, but Beissler and Maata weren't far behind.

Over the past two seasons, East Ridge has built a fantastic rivalry with perennial power Roseville.

Two years ago, East Ridge edged Roseville for the SEC and Section 4AA championships. Last year, the Raptors beat Roseville for a second-straight SEC crown, but Roseville took back its section championship and then finished three points ahead of the Raptors at the state meet to take fifth place.

Both the conference and section championships are expected to go to one of them again this fall.

East Ridge begins the year on Friday, Aug. 31, with a meet at St. Olaf College.

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