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Bemidji State cross country 10th in preseason poll

BURNSVILLE -- The Bemidji State University women's cross country team has been picked to finish 10th in a preseason poll of Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) head coaches.

Allison Hougen was announced as a "2010 Athlete to Watch" in the same release.

The Beavers, who garnered 17 points in the voting, return 13 student-athletes from a 2009 roster that placed 10th at the 2009 NSIC Championships and finished 20th at the NCAA Division II Central Regional.

Hougen, back for her junior year of collegiate competition, is poised for a successful season this fall.

As a sophomore the Bemidji native was among the Beavers' top two finishers in two of five events in 2009, which included the team's top time, 25th overall, at the Jimmie Invitational.

Also returning to Craig Hougen's cross country team is senior Kristi Buerkle.

Buerkle was an All-American sprinter for BSU's indoor and outdoor track teams last winter. As a member of the cross country team, she was one of BSU's top two finishers at all five events last fall.

Defending conference champion Augustana College picked up seven first-place votes and 97 points to take top honors in the preseason poll. The University of Mary and Minnesota-Duluth finished tied for second and each secured two first-place votes at 88 points.

Morgan Pace, a two-time All-America runner from Minnesota Duluth was voted as the NSIC's 2010 Preseason Athlete of the Year laurels, marking the second straight year she has wrapped up the honor.

The Bemidji State cross country team opens the season Saturday with the Babe Run alumni race.

The Beavers then set their sights on Valley City, N.D. where the team will compete in the Valley City State University Run Sept. 3.

2010 NSIC Preseason Coaches' Poll

1. Augustana (7) 97

t-2. U-Mary (2) 88

t-2. Minnesota Duluth (2) 88

4. Minnesota State 70

5. Winona State 54

6. St. Cloud State 48

7. MSU Moorhead 44

8. Wayne State (Neb.) 41

9. Northern State 36

10. Bemidji State 17

11. Concordia-St. Paul 12