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Girls Track Preview: Relays will be a strength for Tigers

The Farmington girls were at their best with a baton in their hands last season.

The Tigers set school records in all seven relays last spring. Those performances helped them place fourth at the Missota Conference Championships, sixth at the section meet and 36th at the Class AA State Meet. The team's first state appearance since 2004 came thanks to team MVP Jackie Beckett and the rest of the school-record setting 4x800 relay team -- Kaitlin Mincke, Devyn Alberts and Bailey Opsal. The foursome placed fifth in the finals in 9:27.29 on the Hamline University track, the best finish in the event among teams that didn't feature a senior.

Beckett added a sixth-place state meet finish in the open 800, an event in which she won conference and section titles and will once again compete this spring. Mincke, Alberts and Opsal are all expected to see action in open events ranging from the 400 to the 1,600. They will be joined by sophomore Nicole Clifton, who was part of last year's school-record setting 4x200, 4x400 and sprint medley relays. Other options in the 400 include senior Chardea Cornell, senior Anna Findsen and sophomore Amanda Mohr.

The Tigers also have plenty of options in the sprint relays where school open 100 record holder AJ Olatunji, Amy Kiminski and Rilee Carufel are all back from last year's school-record setting 4x100 relay. A trio of juniors -- Lauren McHenry, Kayla Seivert and Rachel Sand -- along with sophomore Mary Cline are also back to add depth in the sprints.

"We return a lot of upperclassmen experience. These ladies have helped to achieve a number of successes, and I hope they continue their achievements this year," said head coach Tom Hart. "We also have added athletes this year who will help us score points in the areas we were lacking last year. Our numbers are pretty good again this year which will help us with the needed depth to compete in some of the larger meets."

Many of those added athletes are looking to contribute to the team in the field events. Maria Gouchenour, Haley Luhman, Taylor Just and Jordan Bridges are all working on the jumping events, Isis Alexander and Tara Corrigan are working with the sprinters and Danielle Froehling and Katie Habeck are practicing along side returner Meredith Gulsvig in the discus and shot put. Luhman, Just and Jenna Moore are all trying to carry over their gymnastics skills into the pole vault.

The Tigers' top returning competitor in the field events is senior Katrina Fitzgerald, who won all-conference honors in the pole vault last spring and tied the school record with a vault of 10 feet. Sand is also back in the pole vault and Mohr, Kiminski, Erin Hickey and Betsy Anderson return in the jumps. Anderson and Breanna Thompson also provide the team with experience in the hurdle races.

Distance duties will fall upon senior Melissa Marshall, who will run the 1,600 and 3,200.