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Girls cross country preview: Everybody's back for Tigers

Members of the Farmington girls cross country team take off from Boeckman Middle School for a practice run Monday morning. The Tigers return all their runners from last season.

Everybody should be back this year for a Farmington girls cross country team that improved from 11th to ninth place at last year's section meet while fielding a senior-less lineup.

Experience and leadership will come from this year's lone senior, Nicole Clifton, as well as varsity veterans Bailey Opsal (junior), Marissa Stewart (junior) and Maria Kiminski (sophomore).

Clifton led the Tigers with a 37th-place finish at last year's Section 1AA meet, while Opsal led the way with a 23rd-place showing at the Missota Conference Championships. The duo has provided Farmington's top two finishes at the section meet every year since 2007.

Stewart was a consistent top-seven varsity finisher last year, as was Kiminski, who also represented the Tigers at the state track meet in the 4x200-meter relay this spring.

"I expect that our four oldest varsity runners will continue to be strong leaders throughout the season," second-year head coach Heidi Revels said.

Revels is hoping a second wave of younger runners can continue to improve and close the gap between the Tigers' top five runners. Freshman Maricia Pacheco made big strides as an eighth grader last season, moving all the way up to the No. 3 spot behind Clifton at the conference meet before suffering an illness that sent her back to fifth on the team at the section meet. She was a strong finisher this spring in the 3,200 for the Tigers and has continued running over the summer.

Freshman Maddie Strid and eighth-grader Sofia Chadwick are other returning letter-winners who will vie for varsity spots. Both finished in the team's top seven several times last season, including the section meet when Strid moved up to third on the team and 53rd overall.

Coach Revels also included junior co-captain Emily Gerster, eighth-grader Tori Jacoby, seventh-grader Maricella Pacheco as runners to watch this season. Revels is looking forward to seeing what other young runners show up when official practices begin on Monday.

"I am already aware of a few younger runners who will be joining us this fall and I am really excited about that," Revels said. "(A) goal is to move up in the conference, and I believe it's possible with the experience that our younger runners have gained since last fall. We have a lot of talented runners on the team, and I think we will start to see the hard work pay off as the season gets going."