A full year of training helped Missouri Southern's Desirea Buerge become a two-time All-American last weekend at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Kingsville, Texas.
Buerge, who prepped at Webb City, finished second in the shot put (53 feet, 9 inches) and fourth in the discus (175-1). Her mark in the shot put broke her own school record and was 4.25 inches behind winner Lindsay Baker of Ashland.
"I wish I would have gotten a little better outcome at the end, but I couldn't ask for a better outcome when I PR (in the shot)," Buerge said. "In the discus I wish I could have placed where I came in at. I ended up fourth and was the No. 2 ranked coming in."
Buerge also played basketball her first three years at Missouri Southern, averaging 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds to earn second team all-MIAA honors in 2018. But she decided to not play basketball in her final season so she could concentrate on her field events.
"I was a pretty difficult decision," Buerge said. "I thought long and hard about it. I prayed about it. It was just something that I came to terms with because I wasn't really getting along with my teammates as well as I wanted to with basketball. So it just seemed like the best decision to make when I did quit to focus on track.
"I don't regret playing basketball. I did have fun when I did play. I had a lot of good experiences and a lot of memories made. I do have that 'what if' on my mind every once in a while, if I would have been full-time track from the beginning how good I could have been. But I can't think of those because that's not the decision I made. I enjoyed the experience I had with basketball and track at the same time."
"Maybe if she was never a basketball player, she might have been good at the hammer and weight throw," Lions throws coach Brian Allen said. "You never know, but her basketball career kind of got in the way of all of that."
By going through an entire track season, Buerge saw the distance on her throws increase.
"I had a full year of training, getting stronger, putting on a little bit more weight to help with the throwing aspect of it," Buerge said. "So it made a big difference with my numbers as well.
"I was able to focus on a lot more technical things and clean up a lot of things that I didn't have time for when I was in basketball season. This year it was easier to keep the strength on and keep the weight on, and that was a big part of what really made this season a lot better."
"She finally had a full year of training with me honestly," Allen said. "She had a preseason with me and actually could keep on some weight and keep on some strength. That was the big game changer for her to have big jumps in her events."
After redshirting the indoor track season at MSSU as a freshman, the outdoor season in 2018 and not playing basketball last year, Buerge has one year remaining in all three areas. She's going to spend that eligibility next year at the Division I level.
She's transferring to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, and she's well acquainted with the basketball coach. Lane Lord, former Pittsburg State coach, guided UTRGV to an 18-15 record last season, third place in the WAC and just missed an NCAA Tournament berth, falling to top seed New Mexico State 76-73 in double overtime in the postseason tournament championship game.
"When we were down in Kingsville, we took the drive to go look at the town (Edinburg)," Buerge said. "It's a beautiful town, beautiful community, nice people. It's a little hot, but South Padre is about an hour away."
Buerge was named Central Region Women's Field Athlete of the Year last week, and Allen was voted Central Region Women's Assistant Coach of the Year by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
"It's a testament to the girls on the team really," Allen said. "I couldn't have gotten that award with them. They all worked their butts off and really bought into the system, threw really well, made a lot of progress. The award is as much theirs as it is mine."