GVSU track and field opens outdoor season at CSU Invitational

GVL / Luke Holmes - Breanna Luba jumps over the hurdle. The GVSU Big Meet was held in the Kelly Family Sports Center on Friday, Feb. 10, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes – Breanna Luba jumps over the hurdle. The GVSU Big Meet was held in the Kelly Family Sports Center on Friday, Feb. 10, 2016.

Jacob Arvidson

The outdoor track and field season is officially underway.

A small unit of Grand Valley State sprinters and hurdlers traveled to Charleston, South Carolina for the CSU Spring Break Invitational Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18, with hopes of hitting some early qualifying marks. The Lakers participated in six events and placed in the top three in all of them.

“We had a few athletes, we had a few events and we got a few things accomplished,” said sprints and hurdles coach Alan Dunson. “There are a few tweaks we can make. There were a few errors, a few tactical mistakes, so a few teachable moments we can build on, but a good open to the season.”

Jessica O’Connell took first place in the women’s 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:01.74. The time gave her GVSU’s first provisional qualifying mark of the season, putting her in contention for a place at the national meet in May.

“We chose to run her in the slower heat on Friday to try and conserve her energy for the 4×4 relay on Saturday so she wouldn’t have to run two events in a row,” Dunson said. “The fast heat ran on Saturday, but her time was still the fastest one. First place is really good considering she ran with a slower heat.”

O’Connell helped lead the women’s 4×400-meter relay team to victory as well. The foursome carried the baton across the finish line in 3:46.67, another provisional mark for both O’Connell and GVSU.

“I was very happy with how our 4×4 performed,” said Angela Ritter, one of the women on the Laker relay. “Our closest competition finished five seconds behind us, so we ran a great time for running by ourselves the whole race.”

Ritter also took one of the top spots in the women’s 200-meter dash. She finished in 24.53 seconds to take second in the event and earn a provisional mark.

“The 200 didn’t go as planned,” Ritter said. “I was hoping to have a stronger opener. I had a great start, but a poor finish. I’m going back to training again, so it can only get better from here.”

On the men’s side, Emmanuel Arop started his outdoor campaign off with a third-place finish in the 100-meter dash. The freshman crossed the line in 10.69 seconds.

TJ Burnett put up a strong performance in the 400-meter hurdles, earning a second-place finish and a provisional mark with a time of 53.12 seconds.

Breanna Luba rounded out the meet for the Lakers with a third-place finish in the women’s 100-meter hurdles, cruising across the line in 14.33 seconds.

“There are a lot of things during outdoor that you can’t control,” Dunson said. “There might be wind, it might be hot, it might be raining. Indoor is about twice as long with opportunities. With outdoor it’s quite limited. We have to take advantage when we have the chance.”

The next chance the sprinters and hurdlers will have will be at the EIU Big Blue Classic Friday, March 31, when the remainder of the unit opens its outdoor season. The distance runners will be in action even sooner. They will head to the Raleigh Relays in Raleigh, North Carolina Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25.