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Boys cross country preview: Fenske seeks second straight state meet trip

Returning state qualifier Elliot Fenske runs at last year's section meet. Fenske is back to lead the Tigers again this season.2 / 2

Elliot Fenske has some high expectations for his senior season and, apparently, the people at the Minnesota State High School League do, as well.

The Farmington senior sits 13th in the MSHSL's pre-season rankings for Class 2A cross country coming off a junior season in which he finished 28th in the state meet with a time of 16 minutes, 36 seconds on the hilly course at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Seventeen of the top 27 state finishers were seniors, so Fenske is eager to get back to state and see how far he can move up.

"I would like to improve from how I did last year and step it up more and really push myself to the limit," Fenske said. "In order for me to do that I will have some intense runs and workouts, but I know I -- along with the rest of the team -- am willing to do that."

Fenske finished in the top 10 at meets throughout last season before qualifying for state with a fifth-place finish at the section meet. After the state meet, he stayed in shape by playing for the Farmington basketball team and participating in the school's strength and conditioning program.

"Lately I have started to get out for more runs and started building up my legs for the season," Fenske said.

On Monday, the Tigers will begin the process of building a formidable varsity lineup around Fenske. Nick Arenberg and Levi Freetly, the team's Nos. 2 and 3 runners last year, were lost to graduation, but a group of five varsity letter-winners are back compete for varsity spots.

Two of those returning runners are coming off track seasons where they were strong performers in the distance events for the Tigers.

Senior Carl Elmer, an 87th-place finisher at last year's section cross country meet, came up with a pair of personal-best times at the section track meet at Lakeville South where he ran a 10:34 in the 3,200 and a 4:51 in the 1,600.

Junior Chad Retterath was the team's No. 5 runner at last season's section cross country meet and came back this spring to run a personal-best 4:43 in the 1,600. He continued running this summer and qualified for nationals with a time of 4:28 in the 1,500.

Other returning runners from last year's team are senior Matt Thomas, junior Lincoln Kirchoff and sophomore Alec Wilson. Fourth-year head coach Keith Revels is also looking for last year's top JV runners -- Justin Rees, Brandon Strohfus and Josh Ruthenbeck -- to improve enough to compete for varsity time.

"Timing is everything when you get to conference and section meets. You need to be healthy on that day, especially if you are lacking depth," said Revels, whose team finished fifth in the conference and ninth in the section a year ago. "Losing two of our top five scorers means that someone needs to step up and drop time to help keep our score down."