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East Ridge girls cross country: No. 2-ranked Raptors girls win in Lakeville, make it three-for-three

East Ridge junior Emily Betz earned third place overall to help the Raptors girls win the 20-team Lakeville North Applejack Invitational at Aronson Park on Friday, Sept. 13. (Submitted photo)

The East Ridge girls cross country team made it three-for-three, while the Raptors boys took strides once again at the highly competitive Lakeville North Applejack Invitational at Aronson Park on Friday, Sept. 13.

The East Ridge girls team won a meet for the third time in three attempts to start the 2013 season. The Raptors, ranked No. 2 in the Class AA state poll, beat four other top 10 ranked teams in the win in Lakeville – including No. 3-ranked Eagan, No. 6 Edina and fellow Suburban East Conference power Forest Lake, which is ranked seventh.

“It was a mini-state meet with teams like Eagan, Edina, Forest Lake and Monticello, who seems like they’re coming on,” East Ridge co-head coach Lloyd Ness said. “I’m hoping with another month of training and then giving them some rest our girls can even take another step.”

The East Ridge girls have reached the state meet the past three seasons. The Raptors have been the conference champs the last three years, the Section 4AA champion in 2010 and 2012 and were the Section 4AA runner-up in 2011. East Ridge finished fifth in the state last year, sixth in the state in 2012 and in eighth place in 2011.

East Ridge senior Bailey Ness said the girls goal this year is to finish in the top three at state, which would earn a team trophy and individual medals at the state ceremony.

“The team worked really hard this summer,” Bailey Ness said. “We worked harder than we ever did. We’re really pushing each other. We want to get on that podium. We’ll be really happy if we can be up there after the state meet.”

Bailey Ness led the way for the Raptors girls at Lakeville finishing in second place overall with a time of 14 minutes, 34.4 seconds in the 4-kilometer run. Her teammate, junior Emily Betz, was right behind Ness, taking third with a time of 14:34.8.

In addition, East Ridge junior Brenley Geortzen took 19th (15:11.9), sophomore Olivia Hummel earned 23rd (15:15.8) and senior Sandra Gramer rounded out the Raptors’ top five with a 25th place finish (15:19.4). East Ridge totaled 72 place points in the win.

Eagan junior Anna Van Wyk won the race with a time of 14:26.7 as the Wildcats finished second with 92 place points.

East Ridge co-head coach Chad Cronin said he was impressed by his team’s performance.

“Five of the top 10 teams in the state were there and they had play-by-play during the races,” he said. “The girls really handled the pressure well. It seemed like they were calling it for Eagan the whole way. It made it kind of dramatic.”

The East Ridge boys team earned eighth place out of 18 teams in Lakeville. The Raptors compiled 234 place points in the race.

While defending state champ Stillwater is the frontrunner in Section 4AA, East Ridge finished close to section foes White Bear Lake and Woodbury in Lakeville. The Bears took fifth (164 points) and the Royals placed seventh (216).

Despite losing all-state runner Nate Roese to graduation last year, Cronin said the Raptors boys “have had their best start yet as a team,” this season.

Cronin remembered back to the very first meet East Ridge competed in – at St. Olaf in 2009. Roese was the only boys runner to finish the race in less than 20 minutes. However, at last week’s Lakeville meet, seven East Ridge runners ran times under 18 minutes.

“There’s definitely a group that has stepped it up,” Cronin said. “They’re all closer in time so there points have been low because of that. I wasn’t sure how it would go, because it’s so hard to replace Roese, who would usually always be in the top five at meets.”

At Lakeville, East Ridge senior Aaron Gorden led the way for the Raptors, taking 34th place with a time of 17:10.2 in the 5-kilometer race. Senior Ryan Schiferl was right behind Gorden, taking 40th with a time of 17:17.0. Sophomore Tony Cauthorn took 51st (17:25.9), freshman Marcus Haskins placed 53rd (17:26.7) and senior Roman Faller rounded out the Raptors top five, taking 56th (17:28.4).

Cronin said he felt good about both his teams heading into the year and he’s happy to see the results.

“This summer I could kind of tell something special was happening,” he said. “There was definitely a higher level of determination than I’ve seen yet.”

However, with 103 kids making up both the boys and girls teams at East Ridge this season, Cronin said his vision for the runners is “long-sighted.”

“We’re focused on the postseason — the conference meet, the section meet and beyond,” he said. “It’s great what we’re doing right now, but we have a longer focus. But, we’re feeling pretty good about where things are going. This trajectory is looking pretty good.”

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.
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