East Ridge cross country: Raptors girls repeat as section champs
Last year, the girls on the East Ridge cross country team left the state meet in St. Olaf College feeling like they had some unfinished business. Now they’ll get a chance to finish it.
The East Ridge girls cross country team defended its Section 4AA championship, winning its third section title in the past four years on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the University of Minnesota’s Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul.
“Again, the hard work and smart work paid off,” East Ridge co-head coach Chad Cronin said. “For most the runners, the season is over. Of course, it’s wonderful to earn another trip to state on the girl’s side. Earning their fourth straight trip to state is huge. It is something many of these runners had their focus and goal set on all year— not just all season.”
With its top five finishers all in the top 19 overall, East Ridge totaled just 51 place points to win the meet easily. Last year’s runner-up, Roseville, finished second once again, with 88 place points to also qualify for the state meet. Out of sections, the top two teams and the top eight runners not on the top two teams qualify for the state meet. White Bear Lake earned third with 102 points.
East Ridge, ranked second in Class AA – only behind No. 1 Wayzata – won every meet it ran this season.
“I’m so proud of my team,” East Ridge senior Bailey Ness said. “It’s so great we’re all having such a good season. It’s my last season, so I’m so glad that everything is going well. Hopefully we’ll all do really well at state too.”
Ness, the Raptors’ top-ranked runner and fifth-ranked runner in Class AA, crossed the finish line second for the East Ridge and seventh overall with a time of 15:00.9. Ness said it was the Raptors coaches’ philosophy for her to not go full bore in the section race.
“We had a little strategy,” Ness said. “This year wasn’t about the section meet, it’s about the state meet. We didn’t really want to go all-out here, the idea was to rest a little and save it for state. It’s still a tough race and it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t 100 percent.”
East Ridge junior Emily Betz won the race – her first Section 4AA championship crown – with a time of 14 minutes, 36.1 seconds on the 4-kilometer course.
“It feels really amazing,” Betz said. “I’m just happy my team won and we’re going to state. I didn’t really think I’d win this ever, but I did and I’m happy.”
Along with Betz and Ness, East Ridge junior Brenley Goertzen placed ninth with a time of 15:07.3, sophomore Olivia Hummel was 15th with a time of 15:25.6 and freshman Megan Schiferl placed 19th with a time of 15:38.2.
Last year, East Ridge took fifth place in the Class AA state meet at St. Olaf – the best finish in the Raptors’ three state meet appearances. However, East Ridge was ranked third in Class AA heading into the state meet, and the goal was to finish inside the top three, which would garner a team trophy and a trip to the podium at the state awards ceremony.
This year, the East Ridge girls are hungry for some hardware.
“The state meet has been getting even more competitive each year,” Cronin said. “It is amazing how much faster it has gotten and what it takes to place there. We think this year’s team has what it takes to be among the best and are looking forward to the outcome in Northfield this year.”
The state meet will be held Saturday, Nov. 2, at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The girls race kicks off the day at 10 a.m. In addition to the team competition, the top 25 individual finishers at state earn all-state honors.
“I’m really excited and really nervous,” Ness said, “but hopefully all will go well there.”
Gordon finishes one spot short of state
For the East Ridge boys, senior Aaron Gorden fell one spot of becoming the second male runner in school history to reach the state meet.
Gorden ran the 5-kilomter race in a time of 17:16.1 to take 19th place overall. St. Paul Highland Park’s Riley Quinlan placed 16th with a time of 17:07.1 to earn the last individual spot at state.
“Aaron had a great season,” Cronin said. “He is a remarkable young man who is a hard worker. He put in the most miles we’ve ever had on this team. He came close to advancing under the newer qualification standard and we’re certainly proud of him and honored to have coached him and so many seniors on this team.”
The only male runner to reach state for East Ridge in the school’s four-year history is 2013 graduate Nate Roese, who was all-state as a senior along with being a two-time state champion and all-time state record holder in the 400-meter dash.
As a team, the East Ridge boys placed sixth with 151 place points – an improvement on last year’s eighth place finish. After Gorden, sophomore Peter Betz was the second Raptors runner across the finish line, taking 30th with a time of 17:29.6. Senior Taylor Huffman placed 31st with a time of 17:32, junior Andrew Berg was 34th with a time of 17:38 and senior Roman Faller was 37th with a time of 17:44 to round out the Raptors’ top five.
“We had many hard workers on this team,” Cronin said. “Their efforts really paid off. Many runners put it all on the race course for this section meet. We’re proud of that. There are many successes from this year of course including the state trip.”