A strong performance last week earned the Forest Lake girls cross country program its best finish in the Suburban East Conference meet.
The Rangers, ranked ninth in Class AA, took second place out of 10 teams with 69 points. No. 2 East Ridge scored 31 points to win its fourth consecutive conference championship at Falcon Ridge Golf Course in Stacy. Roseville, ranked 11th, came in nine points behind Forest Lake.
“The race began and finished with East Ridge, us and Roseville up in the front,” coach Eric Kaluza said. “East Ridge ran phenomenally and demonstrated why they are ranked were they are. Roseville always brings it at the conference meet and we knew they were going to battle us for that second spot.”
All seven Rangers turned in season-best times, and each finished in the top 33 out of 91 runners. A 12-second spread between his top three runners gave Kaluza reason for optimism as the team heads into the section meet. Sophomore Emma Benner placed fifth in 14:32, followed closely by ninth-grader Allie Bartlett in eighth place and eighth-grader Caroline Schoessow in 10th.
Benner has led the team in every race this season, while the advent of the postseason seemed to inspire Bartlett, who has led the team at state the last two seasons.
“Emma has been a standout this year and I am confident she will be a major factor at the section meet,” Kaluza said. “Having Allie back was essential and now the section (outlook) looks even better.”
Meanwhile, Schoessow continued a breakout season with her first all-conference award.
The next four Rangers finished within 16 seconds. Ninth-graders Amanda Fortilli and Maria Valentin scored points by finishing 23rd and 25th, respectively, with times of 15:29 and 15:33. Ninth-grader Miranda Overland was 28th in 15:36 and seventh-grader Jessica Overland was 33rd in 15:45.
Fortilli, Valentin and Miranda Overland earned honorable mention all-conference honors. Jessica Overland’s finish was third among seventh-graders.
East Ridge senior Bailey Ness won the meet with a time of 13:58.
The Section 7AA meet starts 2 p.m. today, Oct. 24, at Cloquet Golf Course. The top two teams will advance to the state meet, set for Friday, Nov. 1 in Northfield.