Craig Hougen, who is in his 18th year at BSU, looks to lead his teams into the indoor season at the same venue they all have their sights set on to end it--at Minnesota State's Meyer's Fieldhouse, site of the 2008 NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships, March 14-15.
"I thought if we give our student-athletes a chance to compete in MSU's facilities, it may give them a little extra motivation to make every effort to qualify NCAA Championships," commented Hougen. "And then if they do qualify, having already been there, it should be a more comfortable setting for them." He added, "We don't just want to have two or three go to nationals this year, we would love to have four, five or possibly more."
A quick look at this year's rosters and it may be hard to tell the difference between the BSU and any other NCAA Division II team the in country. With a total of 51 student-athletes participating, Hougen has 26 listed as freshman. The key identifier for each team will be the teams' returning All-American throwers Sheena Devine (Sr., North Branch. Minn.) and Joe Remitz (Sr., North Branch, Minn.).
Devine and Remitz, two of BSU's seven seniors set to compete, look to cap their collegiate athletic careers in 2008. Devine, the defending indoor and outdoor shot put throwing has not been defeated by a single Division II competitor since the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Championships while Remitz is a four-time All-American and is coming off a season in which placed fourth at the indoor championships last March and sixth in the most recent outdoor championships.
"Although this event may be a bit early, when you take a look at our line up people like Joe and Sheena are hungry and definitely ready for competition," stated Hougen.
Hougen will also look to others like senior multi-event participant Nicole Friend (International Falls. Minn.) and Zac Preble (So., Coleraine, Minn.), the NSIC's defending champion in the heptathlon and pentathlon for leadership and strong performances for the new crop of Beavers to follow.
Despite the freashman-laden roster, Hougen likes the mix of seasoned veterans and energetic, talented newcomers.
This year's freshman class comes in with as many credentials as in recent memory. The BSU women have a number of rookies that participated in the Minnesota State High School meet last spring but are making their first foray into an indoor track season.
After a tremendous cross country season for BSU, in which she placed third in the conference championship meet, Stacy Latourneau (Fr., White Bear Lake, Minn.) is one of a handful of newcomers that figure to make a splash in 2008. She is joined by Kristi Buerkle (Fr., Forest Lake, Minn.) who was ranked as the top 200- and 400- meter runner for the majority of the high school season; Sara Dalton (Fr., St. Cloud, Minn.) and Pearl Walker (Fr., Bemidji, Minn.) were each great high school hurdlers, look to form a great one-two punch in the hurdling events for Hougen while Brittney Becker, a distance runner from Grand Rapids, Minn. comes into the season in great shape and ready to participate.
On the men's side of things Josh Letofsky (Fr., Osseo, Minn.) was ranked fifth in the state last year in the mile. He headlines a group of several newcomers such as Brian Bauleke (LeCenter, minn), Andrew Beiswenger (Fisher, Minn.) and Tyler Lange (Nicollete, Minn.) who come to the BSU men's track team after participating in the state high school meet last year.
"It will be interesting to see how these newcomers fair," Hougen said. "We have a number of freshmen that I know will make an impact for us at the NCIC Championships and when you combine them with our veterans we are going to have a couple pretty good teams."