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2013 Fall Sports Preview: East Ridge girls cross country team running for another shot at the title, boys need to replace Nate Roese

East Ridge senior Bailey Ness returns to help lead the Raptors girls cross country running team this fall. (Bulletin file photos)

After last year’s state meet, the East Ridge girls cross country team felt like there was some unfinished business. Their chance to complete it is now.

Led by an all-state performance by then-sophomore Emily Betz, East Ridge took fifth place in last year’s Class AA state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield — the best finish in the Raptors’ three state meet appearances.

However, after winning a third-straight Suburban East Conference championship and second Section 4AA title this season, 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.

East Ridge starts the year ranked fifth in the state and returns five of its six fastest runners from last season.

Betz, now a junior, is back off the best year of her career and a 13th place finish at state along with senior Bailey Ness, who finished 33rd at the state meet, and junior Brenley Goertzen, who placed 85th overall. Also returning to the squad is freshman Megan Schiferl and senior Sandra Gramer, who were the Raptors’ fifth and sixth fastest finishers at state, respectively.

“We have lots of experienced runners on both sides,” said Chad Cronin, who returns as East Ridge head coach for a fifth year, along with new co-head coach Lloyd Ness. “We are very deep on the girls’ side.”

In 2012 the East Ridge girls won a second Section 4AA championship and cruised to a third-consecutive conference championship, beating Roseville on both occasions.

Unlike the past few years, however, the battle for this season’s conference title won’t be a two-team race. Upstart Forest Lake surprisingly edged East Ridge at last year’s state meet and took fourth. The Rangers are ranked ahead of the Raptors to start the year. Since Forest Lake is in a different section, however, Roseville is expected to again be East Ridge’s main competition in Section 4AA.

On the boys side, East Ridge will be without its top runner from the past few years in 2013 graduate Nate Roese, who was all-state in cross country last year along with winning back-to-back state titles in the 400-meter dash during the track season.

However, the next four of East Ridge’s fastest runners from last year’s section meet are back on the squad, led by senior Ryan Schiferl, who was about a minute and a half behind Roese last season.

Senior David Scholz, who was just seconds behind Shiferl at the section meet, is back as well, along with sophomore Jack Walter and senior Aaron Gorden, who had the Raptors fourth and fifth fastest times at sections, respectively.

Stillwater, the back-to-back state champs, are expected to be the team to beat in the conference and the section again this season, which begins Friday, Aug. 30, with a meet at St. Olaf.

“We are very excited to have our biggest team yet,” Cronin said. “These runners are really coming together and have really been a part of a tradition here already. I admire their hard work and smart work after this first week of the season. They represented our team well working at the St. Paul Triathlon this weekend.”

Overall, East Ridge had roughly 100 runners come out for both the boys and girls teams this year.

“We have a lot of new runners,” Cronin said. “I have a feeling we are going to have some nice surprises from these new runners and from younger runners stepping up.”

—Patrick Johnson

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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