Lakers capture first title in GVSU track and field history

Courtesy Photo / Kelsey Deacon
Grand Valley State Universitys womens track team placed 1st in the National Championships held in New Mexico

Courtesy Photo / Kelsey Deacon Grand Valley State University’s womens track team placed 1st in the National Championships held in New Mexico

Brady Fredericksen

On the biggest stage, the Grand Valley State women’s track and field team showed why it is ranked No. 1 in the nation by winning its first-ever NCAA Championship.

Friday’s first round of events resulted in success for the Lakers as they finished the day with a team-record 29 points, good for an 18-point advantage over Ashland University.

After similar success on Saturday, the Lakers took home the national title for the first time in GVSU history by scoring 83 points, 32 points ahead of second-place Lincoln University.

“There’s a couple things going into that, but it just played out that our strong events were on day one,” said GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes, whose women’s team finished second at indoor nationals last season. “But no doubt we had success scoring points and with our distance runners moving on to the finals, we were able to move to day two with success.”

In the field events, sophomore Liz Murphy earned six points by placing third in the weight throw while junior Jocelyn Kuksa also notched six points by placed third in the pole vault.

On the track, the distance medley relay of Julia Nowak, Kayla Vallar, Madie Rodts and Monica Kinney earned GVSU another six points by finishing third with a time of 11:47.40.

“I was really happy about our result, but running that race is always the craziest. So for me, it’s fun to go out and run fast,” said Valler, who ran the 400-meter leg of the race. “I get so excited watching my teammates – you just have to cheer them on.”

As day two rolled around, so did the competition as GVSU’s 18-point lead was cut to 4.5 points just two events into the last day.

“Every program has some strengths and weaknesses, but fortunately, for us we’re strong across the board,” said Baltes, who is in his 12th year at GVSU. “Yesterday we had the majority of our field events, so that’s why it appeared to get close early today. But we just had to make sure we did our job to compete and the points would just take care of themselves.”

The points did take care of themselves as the Lakers put together 54 more points to get to their eventual total of 83, but the day two success came in big part thanks to the success of their distance runners.

Kinney placed in three events to pace the Lakers with 21.5 points. On top of being a member of the third-place distance medley on Friday, Kinney won the national title in the mile run with a time of 4:44.41 to go with her title-time of 16:28.02 in the 5,000 meter.

To go along with Kinney’s performance, Chanelle Caldwell, who earned All-American status after finishing second in the 800-meter run (2:11.30), helped the GVSU cause by scoring eight points.

Finishing behind Kinney in the 5,000 meter were Julia Nowak and Katherine McCarthy. Nowak finished at 17:39.76 while McCarthy crossed the finish line at 18:20.96.

“I feel extremely blessed to be a part of this team and I’m so proud of this,” said McCarthy, a senior. “Just watching the team and be here with them meant the world to me. I’m ecstatic about it. Everyone today deserves to be up on that trophy stand.”

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