Craig Hougen, who enters his 20th season as head coach of the Beavers, leads the track and field program into the indoor season, looking to begin a campaign, which ends at the NCAA Tournament in Houston, Texas. The squad has lost some star power off their 2008 roster, but looks to be very competitive again this season.
Hougen returns some great athletes, along with the addition of some very highly touted newcomers. Look for the Beavers to grow as the season progresses.
“We always have the philosophy that it is a growing process,” said Hougen. “Some of the kids have worked very hard, so our very first meet of the year some of them will do really well, but what you do at the conference meet is what actually counts.”
When taking a look at this year’s roster one might think that the Beavers will have a lot of making up to do with the loss of All-American, and National Champion thrower’s Joe Remitz and Sheena Devine to graduation. Sheena ended her career at Bemidji State by winning her third national championship, while Joe claimed his first National Championship as well as the opportunity to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Trials.
Hougen is looking for freshman to step up and fill the void left in the throwing events after the graduation of Remitz. Bemidji State welcome’s three freshman thrower’s Brian Leonhardt (Fr., Spring Lake Park, Minn.), Cody Campbell (Fr., Beloit, Wis.), and Ken Klein (Fr., Hugo, Minn.), who all placed in their respective state tournaments a year ago.
“After losing the best you’re kind of worried,” Hougen said. “But these three freshman should be able to step up and place in the conference meet.”
The track and field team returns the multi-talented Zac Preble (Jr., Coleraine, Minn.) to its roster with the hopes of continued success for the Beavers. Preble comes into the season as the school record holder in the heptathlon, and looks to improve on last season’s success. While competing in the heptathlon Preble has flourished in other events for the BSU track team. In conference meets he has placed in the pole vault, shot put, and hurdles.
Incoming freshman Paul Wagner (Fr., Fisher, Minn.) was the Minnesota state champion in the high jump last year, and will begin his first season at Bemidji State this season with high hopes for the future. Marcus Dennis (Fr., Walker, Minn.) joins the Beaver track and field squad and is ready to compete as a jumper at the collegiate level.
On the women’s squad, Missy Graber-Kelsey (Jr., Bemidji, Minn.) returns as the lone thrower for Bemidji State. Last season she made the finals in the conference meet in the weight and hammer throw, and looks to pick up right were she left off.
Bemidji State has the luxury of returning sprinter Kristi Buerkle (So., Forest Lake, Minn.). Buerkle returns as the current indoor-400 meter record holder at BSU. In the process she broke a record, which stood solid for 21 years. Buerkle also holds the school record in the 200 meter run. As the anchor of the 4x400 meter relay team, Buerkle helped the team to a third place finish, which was good enough for another record at BSU.
“I expect her to be just as good this year,” Hougen said. “Kristi is going to be one of the top runners in the 200 and 400,” Hougen also mentioned. “I expect her to be on the national lists, and possibly even qualify for nationals.”
Sara Dalton (So., St. Cloud, Minn.) returns for her sophomore season competing in the hurdles after just missing out on a berth to the national tournament a year ago. Look for Dalton to make a big splash in the hurdling events again this year.
Coach Hougen is also looking forward to the addition of newcomers Kendra Cobb (Fr., NashWauk, Minn.) and Kirsten Maras (Fr., Anoka, Minn.), Cobb will compete in the pole vault, high jump, and short relays for the Beavers. Maras competed this fall for the cross country team. She will compete as a sprinter for the Beavers. Another addition to the track and field team, Michelle Ohman (Fr., Prior Lake, Minn.), could stride her way into the distance events this season. Hougen is expecting these athletes to step right in and place in conference meets this season.
The women placed fourth in the NSIC Indoor Championships last season, while the men finished sixth. The Beavers are on a mission to improve on last year’s record as they embark on a new season.