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The East Ridge girls cross country team earned second place at the Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Regional race in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Nov. 10 to qualify for the Nike Cross National race in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 7. (Submitted photo)

East Ridge girls cross country: Raptors earn trip to Nike national race

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After finishing second in this year’s Class AA state meet, the East Ridge girls cross country team proved it was one of the top teams in Minnesota. Now the Raptors get to show what they can do on a national stage.

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East Ridge earned second place at the Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Regional race in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Nov. 10 to qualify for the Nike Cross National race in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 7.

In a race featuring 35 of the best teams from the Heartland – one of eight Nike regions - East Ridge totaled 190 place points to finish runner-up to Wayzata, the Minnesota Class AA state champion this fall, which had 118 points. As a team, East Ridge closed the gap on Wayzata from the state meet. The Raptors finished a mere 1 minute, 9 seconds back of the Trojans, who dominated this year’s state meet with five runners finishing in the top 10 overall.

East Ridge senior Bailey Ness led the way at the Nike Regional, the two-time all-state runner, finished in ninth place overall with a time of 18 minutes, 12.88 seconds – besting every Wayzata runner, including Trojans’ frontrunner Anika Lerdall, who took 17th in 18:28.94.

East Ridge junior Emily Betz, who was fifth at the state meet individually, earned 12th at the Nike Regional with a time of 18:20.54. Fellow junior Brenley Goertzen was the Raptors’ next runner to cross the finish line, taking 52nd in 19:17.81. Sophomore Olivia Hummel and senior Sandra Gramer rounded out East Ridge’s top five finishers, taking 55th and 62nd with times of 19:18.66 and 19:24.43, respectively.

The Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) (formerly known as Nike Team Nationals) is an invitational cross country meet that serves as the unofficial team national championship of United States high school cross country. Though teams have to run as “clubs” as soon as the high school season ends, the race was designed to “heighten competition between high school cross country teams nationwide.” Started in 2004, the event is held at the Portland Meadows thoroughbred racing track. The race features a man-made 5 kilometer course that is completed with three loops. The venue has an enclosed 3,000 seat grandstand, allowing spectators to see the whole race, unlike normal cross country meets. The infield of the track, where the course is set up, is also open to spectators who wish to get a more close-up view of the race.

Last year’s girls team champion was the Manlius XC Club out of Fayetteville-Manlius High School in New York.

-Patrick Johnson

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Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
(651) 319-4505
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