The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV women’s XC win national championship, men place 7th overall

Courtesy GVSU Athletics

The Grand Valley State University cross country season wrapped up for both the men’s and women’s teams on Nov. 18 at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II Cross Country National Championship in Joplin, Missouri. 

After winning their twenty-second straight Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic (GLIAC) championship on Oct. 21, the GVSU women’s cross-country team took home their seventh national championship. 

“An outstanding day for our program,” said head coach Jerry Baltes. “I’m happy that our seniors, our upperclassmen, who finished second the last three years at the NCAA championship on the women’s side finally got to pass that runner-up finish and earn a championship.” 

One of those seniors was Natalie Graber, who finished third place in the event with a personal record of 19:50.3.

“It’s a lot to take in,” Graber said. “I wake up every morning and think ‘Did that just happen?’”

Graber said she and the other seniors put their heads down and were determined to bring home the national title. While redshirting her freshman year, she previously had watched the Lakers’ women at that time capture a national title of their own. Ever since then, Graber has been chasing the same glory. 

“It’s the perfect ending to (my) cross-country career,” Graber said. “To find a way to win the title and go out like that in my senior year, it’s incredible.”

Graber was joined by Klaudia O’Malley as a top 10 finisher, with O’Malley placed eighth with a time of 20:07.6, just two of the many Lakers runners who contributed to the championship season.  

“We really did become a family,” Graber said. “When you’re out there running with girls that you put miles and miles of hard work in together, it’s easy to go out there and run hard. It’s very special, and I don’t think a lot of teams have what we have, so I feel very lucky to be part of it.”

The men’s team also had a successful season ranking in seventh place at the event and having won the GLIAC championship. Baltes reflected on the team’s season and accomplishments with pride.

“The men competed tough,” Baltes said. “It was a pretty deep field, probably one of the deepest fields that we’ve ever seen in a national championship. Still very proud of their efforts and performance.”

With 25 years at the helm, Baltes has been around this track countless times, he says that he found himself leaning on his years of experience to help guide both teams to championship heights.

“You try to draw on your past experiences. What’s worked from a training standpoint, what’s worked from a preparation standpoint and the mental side of things,” Baltes said.  

According to Baltes, another reason for the success this season has been the depth of the program’s roster. He says that having depth is extremely valuable, especially when some runners are struggling while others may be in a groove.

“In our sport, if someone isn’t having a good race you can’t call timeout. You put seven athletes on the line and hope you put the right seven out there,” Baltes said. 

Luckily for GVSU, getting seven good runners is not a problem. According to the Lakers’ head coach, the willingness to adjust and rotate while sticking together led them to another national championship.

“With our program, we’ve got 10 or 12 or 14 really good runners. (It) just shows the depth of our program. No matter who the seven are toeing the line, we are all in this together,” Baltes said. “We are all competing with each other for each other.”

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