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FHS swimmers are working for success

Farmington girls swimming and diving coach Jen Marshall is expecting her swimmers to be ahead of where they were last year at this time when practice gets under way Monday, Aug. 13, at the Dodge Middle School Pool.

That's saying a lot considering the Tigers are coming off another banner season where they placed second at their True Team section meet, third in the conference and section meets and 13th at the Class 2A State Meet, the program's best finish ever.

Marshall said that success motivated her swimmers to put in even more off-season work in preparation for the upcoming high school season. About 20 of them spent the off-season with the TigerSharks Swim Club, which practices and competes in meets throughout the winter, spring and summer.

"This is the most we've ever had swimming club in the off-season, which is fantastic," Marshall said. "Our upper varsity swimmers have risen to the next level and the girls realize that if they want to be a part of that they need to get their butt in gear."

Returning as the team's pace-setter is junior Kaitlyn O'Reilly, who was an All-State honoree in the 200 individual medley (7th) and 100 backstroke (3rd), and swam a leg of the Tigers' seventh-place 200 medley relay, at the state meet last November.

"She had a really great spring state meet in March with the club. A lot of her times were faster than her ones during the high school season," Marshall said. "That girl is driven. She can achieve what she wants to because of her attitude, focus and dedication to the sport."

Cora Ruzicka and Kirsten Kracke are also returning state qualifiers. Kracke swam a leg of the 200 medley relay and Ruzicka the 400 freestyle relay at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center. Marshall is looking for leadership from both Ruzicka and Kracke, as well as senior co-captains Robin Ellis and Maddie Alexander.

"Cora is also very driven and always happy when she comes to the pool. You can tell she really enjoys the sport and it's a passion for her," Marshall said. "Kirsten has a lot of natural talent ... Both of them are hoping to qualify for state in individual events this year."

Other returning varsity swimmers include juniors Sara Kintner, Chloe Holton, Hannah Seitzinger, Katie Aaron and Sydney Geiger, sophomores Ellie Sundet and Hanna Sundt and a trio of divers, Kendall Novak, Nikki Cayard and Tori Sontag.

Varsity contributions could also come from Courtney L'heureux, Katie King and Brooke Christenson, three swimmers who competed mostly on the JV team last season.

"We're excited to have so many girls coming in with a stronger base. We won't have to spend as much time with aerobic training and we can get into the more fine details right away," Marshall said. "The success of the past two years has taken the training to another level. It's nice to have that to build on."

One thing working against the Tigers is the loss of All-Stater Zoe Avestruz, who transferred to Chanhassen after her family moved. Chanhassen and Northfield finished ahead of Farmington in the Missota Conference last fall and both teams return a lot of young talent.

"She has been going really strong in the club season. That is a big loss," Marshall said. "Chanhassen, with Zoe, is probably going to be a powerhouse in the conference. I'd love to move up a spot past Northfield."

Moving up in Section 1AA will also be a challenge for the Tigers as Rochester John Marshall and Rochester Mayo also return lots of talent from last year.

"They were both ahead of us and a lot of their girls are back," Marshall said. "You never know. Anything can happen."

The Tigers open the season at home Aug. 23 when they host their first-ever Missota Conference Relay Meet at Dodge Middle School.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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