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Bemidji State track athletes Buerkle, Gelo head to NCAA Indoor Championships

Capturing a national championship this weekend will be the goal of Bemidji State University senior sprinter Kristi Buerkle while sophomore Raphael Gelo will be looking to earn All-America honors by finishing in the top-eight in the pole vault at the NCAA II track and field meet in Albuquerque, N.M.

Buerkle will begin her quest for a national crown 5:50 p.m. today (Central Standard Time) when she joins 11 other runners in the 400-meter dash preliminaries. At 7:50 p.m. Buerkle will return to the track for the 200-meter dash preliminaries.

Gelo earned his trip to the national meet in the pole vault and he will be among 13 athletes vying for All-America honors beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Buerkle enters the preliminaries ranked second in the 400 and 11th in the 200. Today's top eight finishers will qualify for Saturday afternoon's finals.

Gelo is tied for seventh in the pole vault seedings.

"I believe that both Kristi and Raph will come back as All-Americans and Kristi could do it in both of her events," said BSU coach Craig Hougen.

"Kristi has been to the national meet the past two years and knows what to expect. She knows what she needs to do to be at her best for the races and she is feeling confident.

"This is Raph's first trip and he may be a bit apprehensive," Hougen continued. "But Raph has earned his trip to the nationals and I know he will do well."

Gelo qualified for the NCAA II meet by soaring 16-08 at the NSIC meet, a personal-best height which won the event and gave the Beavers their first conference pole vault champion since 1999.

Gelo is one of three vaulters who enter the national meet at that height. They will be chasing Ryan Brown of Western Washington who is the top seed with a qualifying height of 17.40.

In the women's 400 Buerkle is seeded second with a time of 54.92. The only athlete with a better time is Nyoka Cole of Lincoln (Mo.) who qualified at 54.86. Also under 55 seconds is Kelly Shaw of St. Augustine whose best time is 54.97.

Buerkle will have to advance a few places from her seeded spot if she hopes to crack the top eight in the 200. She enters today's preliminaries seeded 11th with a time of 24.64. Shannon Gagne of New Haven is the top seed at 23.60 and ranked eighth is Maja Mihalinec of Nebraska-Omaha with a time of 24.45.

"Making nationals is the hardest thing to do during a season but once you qualify it has been a very successful year no matter what happens," Hougen said. "Competing here, against all of the very best NCAA II athletes in the country, is a great way for Kristi to cap her indoor career.

"It is going to be an exciting weekend for Raph, Kristi and the BSU track and field program."

World Junior

Curling Championships

Men's Division

Thursday's Draw 9: USA 6, China 4; Norway 6, Denmark 2; Sweden 4, Scotland 3; Switzerland 8, Finland 3; Canada 7, Czech Republic 4

Round-Robin Final Standings

Sweden 8-1, Switzerland 7-2, Norway and Canada 6-3, Scotland 5-4, USA and china 4-5, Finland 3-6, Denmark and Czech Republic 1-8

Today's Playoffs

Game 1: Switzerland vs. Sweden

Game 2: Norway vs. Canada (loser eliminated)

Saturday's Playoffs

Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 winner (loser eliminated)

Sunday's Championship

Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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