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Bemidji State's Buerkle takes second in 400 dash at NCAA Championships

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Bemidji State junior sprinter Kristi Buerkle clocked a career best and school record 400-meter dash time and finished in second place Saturday at the NCAA Division II Track and Field Championships.

She was pleased and surprised with her record time of 53.85 seconds in the quarter-mile race, which was second only to the 53.02 seconds run by Angelo State's Celethia Byrd.

"When you get done, take about 30 seconds to recuperate and look at the time - the thing is I always try to improve my time by a hundredth of a second and if I do that, I'm happy," Buerkle said. "To be 53 (seconds) anything - I'm shocked."

The second-place finish makes Buerkle a four-time all-American in the 400 meter dash. She took second in the 400 in the NCAA Indoor Championships in March.

It marked the conclusion of a standout year of improvement for the Stacy native and Forest Lake High School graduate. She finished seventh in last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Buerkle entered the championship race knowing a major challenge awaited after the ultra-competitive preliminary races. Buerkle's personal best time of 54.31 seconds broke her own school record, but seeded her only third in the 23 woman field.

"When I ran the preliminaries I was more ready for the finals because I knew that I was going to have to run better at the start of the race and that was my goal," Buerkle said.

She ran the race in lane four, her favorite position when running the 400 event. While she started the race strong, she trailed at the midpoint before making a charge in the last 100 meters.

"Being in lane four I was able to be on the inside and keep track of the two fastest times ahead of me," Buerkle said. "The race could not have gone better for me and I had to catch up some at the end. I was really privileged to have a good time."

Buerkle plans to take some time off from her training routine this summer and may run in a handful of races before she returns for cross country season in the fall.

"There's no disappointment at all for me," Buerkle said about her performance. "I came into the meet seeded fifth and I came out second. I'm happy."