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Track preview: Tigers take to the track

Farmington girls track and field coach Tom Hart is looking for 22 returning varsity letter-winners to keep his program going in a positive direction after a 2009 season where the Tigers finished fourth at both the conference and section meets and qualified a record four events for the state meet.

"We return a very strong nucleus of experienced athletes in both the track and field events. We are looking forward to the daily competition in practice," Hart said. "My goal, as always, is to improve upon the previous season's finishes. We continually want to see our records fall and have our athletes strive to achieve."

Leading the pack of returners are three middle-distance runners who have helped the Tigers set and reset the 4x800 relay school record over the past two seasons. Junior Nicole Clifton and freshman Maria Kiminski comprised half of last year's relay that finished fifth at the state meet in a school-record time, while junior Devyn Alberts was part of the state-placing relay as a freshman.

Other distance/middle-distance runners who are back this season include junior Bailey Opsal, who is coming off a strong cross country season, as well as Sarah O'Reilly, Emily Gerster and Alex Frost.

The Tigers have more depth and versatility in the sprints, where many of the runners will also compete for spots in the field events. Senior sprinter Taylor Just will likely see time in the pole vault and Amy Kiminski, Haley Luhman, Lauren McHenry and Erin Hickey will all compete in the jumping events. Other sprinters include Rachel Sand, Alexa Arndt and Leah Rhode.

In the hurdle races the Tigers will be led by returning state qualifier Alyssa Parco.

Returning field events specialists Meredith Gulsvig, Kayla Hinrichsen, Geraldine Mpetey, Danielle Froehling and Katie Habeck will all toss the shot put and discus.

The throwers will be coached by Mark Froehling. Hart and boys head coach Brian Helmstetter will work with the sprinters, jumpers and relays, Julian Buss will work with the pole vaulters and middle-distance runners along with Joe McCarthy. Lisa Lippold will coach the distance runners and Maggie Endersbe will work with the hurdlers and jumpers.

Hussung leads list of 21 returning to boys team

On the boys side, 21 of the Farmington athletes who contributed to last year's successful track season were back at the new Tiger Stadium for the first practice of the season Monday afternoon.

Among those returners, only senior Logan Hussung was part of the Tigers' run toward a school-record 11th-place finish at the state meet. But coach Brian Helmstetter is looking forward to the challenge of combining his returning letter-winners with a large crop of first-timers and once again contending for the conference and section titles.

"Track is always exciting when you start the season and see so many new faces," he said. "We have a lot of new young and old talent joining us as well as a number of talented veterans returning which will keep our goals high again this year as a team."

The highest individual goals belong to Hussung, who spent the winter working on his form in the discus and shot put after finishing third and seventh, respectively, in the events at last year's state meet. Hussung will be joined in the throws by returning varsity performers John Schimmel, Ross Heinz and Cory Johnson.

The Farmington sprinting crew will be led by several of Hussung's football teammates -- Tyler Grubb, Tanner Fuchs, Shayne Benjamin, Ryan Farley and Brandon Todd. Those athletes could also see time in the jumping events, as could Sam Hansen, Drew Cayard and Jeremy Teebo.

Leading the way in the distance runs will be Elliot Fenske, who is coming off a 28th-place finish at the state cross country meet last November. Returners Andrew Thomas, Nick Arenberg, Taylor Kampa and Carl Elmer will also see time in the longer runs.

Back to compete in the hurdle races are Jordan Keller, Matt Shutey, Zach Wyatt and Justice Datzel.

The Tigers open the season with an indoor time trial March 26 at St. Olaf College. The outdoor season begins April 6 with a 4 p.m. scrimmage at Tiger Stadium.