GVSU looking to get out of regionals unscathed

GVL / Courtesy - Alan Steible
Zach Panning (517)

GVL / Courtesy - Alan Steible Zach Panning (517)

Danny Schwartz

Heading into the regional championships this Saturday, Nov. 5 in Evansville, Indiana, both the men’s and women’s Grand Valley State cross country teams are in a secure spot. On a national level, both teams are ranked second overall, while on a regional level, both sides are ranked first overall.

Going into regionals, GVSU coach Jerry Baltes has implemented three goals for his team this weekend: qualify for the NCAA championships, which the top five teams for the men and women qualify for, run as controlled of a race as possible to come out healthy for the remaining two weeks until nationals and to compete to win the meets.

“Those are our goals in that order,” Baltes said. “If we execute those race plans, and put ourselves in the right position, we’ll be at a position to do that. But the most important thing is staying healthy and hopefully getting ready for the NCAA championships.”

Throughout this season, GVSU has faced adversity, whether it be serious injuries, nagging injuries or sicknesses. Going into regionals, some on the team are healthy and ready to go, while some are sick and have injuries.

GVSU will leave Thursday night and drive to Indianapolis, then finish their travel on Friday. They’ll arrive on Friday and see the course, and then be ready to race first thing Saturday morning.

For GVSU senior and team leader Kendra Foley, leaving an impact in her final season on the team is important to her.

“I feel a little more pressure but I think that pressure comes from me,” Foley said. “I want to end my career here on a positive note and on a positive note for the team, so being on my game will hopefully help everyone else and the team as a whole.”

Foley said every year GVSU has gone into regionals, they have been confident they would make it to nationals. GVSU has taken a more laid back approach to regionals, with the goal of not wanting to stress about it too much. GVSU wants to make sure all of its top runners come out healthy and injury-free heading into nationals, where they expect to be.

Foley believes the biggest competition on the women’s side at regionals will include Southern Indiana and Cedarville.

For GVSU’s Zach Panning, the fact that placing a spot in the top five will guarantee them a spot in nationals is comforting.

“The point of this race is to actually get through this race,” he said. “It’s not as important that we win regionals, it’s important that we get through unscathed to the national meet.”

The regionals and nationals will be an adjustment for the GVSU men and all other teams, as it increases from the usual eight kilometer race to a 10 kilometer race, and the Lakers are more than ready to adapt.

“Coach Baltes always says we need to fight for a greater purpose,” Foley said. “So we need to find that purpose and work together as one team and compete to the best our abilities, because I think we’re capable of a lot.”