GVSU men, women come up short at national meet

GVL / Courtesy - Dean Breest

GVL / Courtesy - Dean Breest

Andy Smith

The Grand Valley State men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in the 2015 NCAA Division II National Championships on Saturday in Joplin, Missouri, and came up short in the quest for a pair of national championships.

The Laker women came away with a second-place finish, and the men finished in fourth place.

“I am very proud of the seasons that both teams had. I am also blessed and very fortunate to be able to help them grow as a team this season,” said head coach Jerry Baltes.

The Laker women, looking for their fourth straight national title, finished in second place with a total of 97 points. GVSU was only 14 points shy of first-place Adams State, another perennial powerhouse, which won the meet with 83 points.

GVSU junior and defending national champion Kendra Foley battled her way back from injury to come away with an individual second-place finish at the meet, just 0.03 seconds behind first-place finisher Alexis Zeis from the University of Mary.

“I am very proud of the coaches and the trainers in working with Kendra, to help her get to where she was able to finish high at nationals,” Baltes said, “I am very happy for Kendra, she was hurt all summer and to return and finish in second place shows all the hard work she put in to get back.”

Gina Patterson was the next-highest finishing runner for the Lakers as she came away with a ninth-place finish, capping a breakout season for the GLIAC Freshman of the Year.

Jordan Chester finished her Laker career with an 18th-place finish and achieving All-American status for the third time in her career. Jessica Janecke gave the Lakers their fourth All-American runner on the day as she crossed the finish line in 40th place.

Janecke earned All-American honors for the fourth and final time in her illustrious career. Junior Amy Creutz finished in 41st, Alison Work crossed the finish line in 72nd and Kelly Haubert crossed the finish line in 105th.

“It was a great team performance and a very strong team effort,” Foley said. “We ran to the best of our ability today. It was an outstanding season for us this year, I am very proud of this team. We are very young and have lots of depth returning and we have lots to look forward to.

“Our seniors have been great leaders for us, and our coaches have been special. We couldn’t be where we are today as a team without them.”

The Laker men’s quest for their first title in school history came up short with a fourth-place finish and a total of 201 points. It was the 12th consecutive top-10 finish for the GVSU men, which also finished in the top five for the 10th time in 11 seasons.

“We had very high expectations coming into the race and we are a little disappointed with our fourth-place finish,” said freshman Zach Panning. “It is a good learning experience for us, and how we handle ourselves in defeat shows how much character we have on this team.”

Panning, another GLIAC Freshman of the Year, led the way for GVSU with a fifth-place finish. Chad Cini finished his Laker career with a 37th-place finish, giving him All-American status for the third time in his career. Sophomore Wuoi Mach finished in 44th and junior Brady Selner crossed the finish line in 75th place. Junior Chris May rolled across in 97th place, Kyle Flores came away in 183rd and junior Bryce Bradley rounded out the Lakers with his 215th-place finish.

“It was a great season for us overall, we grew tighter as a team, and all the guys are like my brothers,” Panning said. “What the coaches do and what we do as a team is amazing. I have loved every second of this season and can’t wait for my next three years with the program.”