Two East Ridge High School graduates and University of Minnesota cross country athletes had the opportunity to run in front of a home crowd at this year’s Big Ten Championships.

The University of Minnesota hosted the championship races at the Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul on Sunday. Both Bailey Ness and Emily Betz are runners on the University of Minnesota women’s cross country team who said they had friends and family cheer them on as they competed at the home course.

“I have raced there so many times this season, and like I said, raced there in high school,” said Ness, who graduated from East Ridge in 2014. “So I know the course well, and we train there every week. So it was really fun, and it was nice because we had so many fans there.”

The Minnesota women’s team finished fourth out of 14 teams on Sunday.

Ness finished 42nd overall for the Gophers with a 6-kilometer time of 22 minutes, 20.7 seconds. Betz took 48th with a time of 22:31.3, which was a personal best for her on the home course.

“Everywhere along the course there was someone cheering my name, so that was fun,” said Betz, a 2015 graduate of East Ridge High School. “Or cheering, ‘Go Gophers.’”

Ness is back running at full strength this season after taking a redshirt year off due to injury last year. She suffered from a stress reaction, which is a precursor to a stress fracture, and was forced to take some time off from practice.

“Training has been going very well,” said Ness, who is a retail merchandising major. “It has been injury free, unlike last year.”

The Gophers have a relatively young team after graduating a majority of their top-five runners from last season. The Gophers’ lineup at the Big Ten meet included just one junior, with the rest being sophomores or freshmen.

The University of Minnesota is gearing up for the NCAA Midwest Regional in Iowa City, Iowa on Nov. 11. The Gophers have qualified for the NCAA national championship meet in each of the past 11 years, and their goal is to keep that streak alive.

“Our team’s biggest goal is to make nationals,” Ness said. “We’re a really young team this year because we graduated four out of our top-five last year.”