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Buerkle, Preble take top indoor track honors

Their team totals may not have been what they would have liked, but that didn't stop a pair of Bemidji State University track and field athletes from stealing the show at the 2010 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Indoor Championships Saturday at Mankato.

BSU's Kristi Buerkle, a junior from Stacy, was named NSIC Indoor Female Track Athlete of the Year, while Zac Preble, a senior from Coleraine, garnered the league's Male Indoor Athlete of the Year award.

"The NSIC is maybe the best conference in the nation right now, said BSU head coach Craig Hougen. "If you take a look at results, there were fantastic performances across the board. To have Bemidji State athletes win two of the top individual honors is a real tribute to Zac and Kristi. They are great people with great work ethics and Bemidji State has done them right."

The Beavers had athletes participating in nine events in the final day of the NSIC Championships. The BSU men failed to record any finishes in the top eight on day two and completed the event tied for ninth place with 26 points. The BSU women were led by Buerkle, who placed in two events to score 16 points and put the Beaver women in 10th.

Minnesota State Mankato captured the men's team title, while Augustana earned the women's championship.

Buerkle, a 2009 outdoor all-America sprinter, captured the NSIC 400-meter dash title, shattering school and league records en route to automatically qualifying for the NCAA Division II Championships. The junior broke the tape .85 in front of her nearest competitor clocking a time of 55.09. She shaved more than a second from her own BSU standard of 56.32 set earlier this season and bested a 17-year-old league record of 56:72 set by Amy Von Wald of Northern State.

Buerkle's 400 mark stands as the fastest 400-meter dash in the nation this indoor season.

In addition, she finished third in the 200-meter dash. She crossed the line just a fraction of a step behind the NSIC champion and missed a BSU record she established earlier this month (25.26) by just .07.

She is the first BSU athlete ever to be named NSIC Female Track Athlete of the Year and joins three-time national champion Sheena Devine (2005-08), the 2008 NSIC Indoor Field Athlete of the Year, as the only other BSU female to earn the league's individual indoor honor.

Preble took third in the pole vault, clearing a personal-best 16 feet and placed eighth in the shot put with a toss of 48.04.50 feet in addition to capturing the 2010 NSIC heptathlon title Feb. 14-15. Preble's fourth consecutive NSIC championship set a new league record (5,245) and solidified him as the top-ranked multi-event athlete in the nation.

Preble stands as the seventh BSU male to earn NSIC Athlete of the Year honors.

"Both Kristi and Zac are ranked No. 1 headed into the national championships in a couple weeks.

The good part of that is a lot of honor, the bad part is that they head to the championships with a big bulls eye on their backs," said Hougen. "But they have already proven they can perform well under pressure. The conference meet is a perfect example of that.

Buerkle and Preble now ready themselves for the NCAA Division II Indoor Championships scheduled for Albuquerque, N.M. Mar. 12-13.