GVSU men, women win 2016 GLIAC Championships

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Jerry Baltes celebrates a victory with his team during the 2014 Cross Country National Championships in Louisville, KY.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Jerry Baltes celebrates a victory with his team during the 2014 Cross Country National Championships in Louisville, KY.

Danny Schwartz

The Grand Valley State cross country team traveled to Katie Golf Course at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan to compete in the 2016 GLIAC Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships Saturday, Oct. 22. Overall, it was a very successful day.

The women claimed their 16th straight GLIAC championship, while the men claimed their 15th straight GLIAC championship.

The men’s cross country team placed first overall with 28 points, and the women’s team also placed first overall with 35 points.

The 2016 GLIAC cross country major awards were also handed out at this event, and GVSU won four of them. Kendra Foley won Women’s Athlete of the Year, Stacy Metzger won Women’s Freshman of the Year and coach Jerry Baltes won both Men’s and Women’s Coach of the Year.

GVSU’s Kendra Foley finished in first for the women’s race with a final time of 21:09.2.

“We went into the GLIAC ready to compete and ready to take home our 16th championship,” Foley said. “We just had high expectations from ourselves, and it ended up being a great day for all of us.”

On receiving the Women’s Athlete of the Year award, Foley knows how big of an honor it is, especially coming from a very competitive conference like the GLIAC.

Other women’s scores include Kelly Haubert finishing fifth overall with a time of 21:56.7. Stacy Metzger finished in seventh with a time of 22:01.7, while Alison Work finished 10th with a time of 22:20.2.

For the men’s side, GVSU’s Zach Panning finished second overall with a time of 24:31.6.

“Personally, I was pushing too hard the entire race,” Panning said. “I think I need to get out a little easier and settle in more in the middle of the race, and then be ready to close better.”

Panning said that as a team, GVSU had great races from some guys that have been steadily improving over the year, and that progression is a great thing to see.

Chris May and Nate Orndorf finished right behind Panning in third and fourth place with times of 25:00.7 and 25:04.6, respectively. Other top-10 finishes for GVSU include ninth place Trevor Sharnas with a time of 25:21.8, and Bryce Bradley at 10th place with a final time of 25:21.9.

Baltes was happy with his team’s performance, and is optimistic heading into regionals and nationals.

“We see this event as the first step in a three-step process of the GLIAC championships, regionals, and then hopefully the state championships,” Baltes said. “We certainly wanted to come away with two championships, and our kids did a really nice job of doing so.”

On receiving Coach of the Year awards, Baltes is humbled but focused on the task at hand. The individual accolades are nice, but ultimately he believes in staying focused on the team aspect and everyone doing their part for the good of the team.

“The Coach of the Year award is voted on by peers and it’s an honor,” Baltes said. “But that award goes to everyone in our program, from assistant coach Aaron Watson, many other assistants as well and the athletic training staff, so it’s a total team effort and team win.”

The Lakers return to action in two weeks for the Midwest Regional Championships. The event takes place in Evansville, Indiana Saturday, Nov. 5.

“We’ll have one of our hardest workouts of the year next Friday, and then we’ll be ready in two weeks to head down to Evansville, Indiana to get stuff done,” he said.