Top GVSU runner back for one more round

Andy Smith

“Look good to race fast” may not be the most common slogan in collegiate racing, but it has worked for Jessica Janecke and her teammates.

Janecke, a fifth year senior, returns to the Grand Valley State women’s cross country team after being a part of the Lakers’ past three consecutive national championships. To help lead GVSU to a fourth, Janecke will have to do just what she’s done in the past – train hard, compete well and look good.

Janecke and a number of other Laker runners take to the course with sparkles around their eyes and bows in their hair. On the outside, harmless. On the inside, ferocity, drive and intimidation ready to surface.

Hard work, success and passion have been central the GVSU’s cross country success in recent year. Head coach Jerry Baltes has built a dynasty. Returning Janecke for one more season not only strengthens the Lakers’ hope for another national title, but it brings back a teammate that is more than just what she does on the course.

“She is very motivating and a great leader, always does the best she can and gives 100 percent all of the time no matter what she is trying to accomplish,” said teammate Jordan Chester. “She is also very positive and is always pushing her teammates. She has taught me a lot as a teammate and as a student and I couldn’t be more thankful to have her as a teammate and a roommate these past four years.”

The Scales Mound, Illinois native brings experience and talent back to the four-time defending national champion Lakers, who have a deep roster and are primed for another strong year in 2015.

“I couldn’t have accomplished anything without her,” said junior Kendra Foley. “She has been my biggest mentor and has helped me believe in myself and helps the team believe in itself also.

“She is a really great leader, always has a positive attitude and is the most dedicated person that I know – not only to running, but to the team also. She is always the last person to leave the gym and leads by her everyday actions and not by words.”

The Lakers are glad to get back one of their most important runners back from last year’s national title squad. Janecke finished in third place individually in the national championship race in Louisville, Kentucky, and was a key figure on the team all year.

Janecke is a returning USTFCCCA All-American, and was USTFCCCA All-Region and All-GLIAC First Team last year. Further, the senior standout was named the USTFCCCA Division II Women’s Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2014.

“When I went away to college it was very important for me to find some place that had that family mentality. What we have here is really special,” Janecke said. “The success is one thing and it’s awesome to be a part of, but everything outside of running has really has been enhanced because of my experience with the team and the coaches.”

Janecke received a redshirt in 2011, but has been a key figure in GVSU’s last three national championships and is the only athlete to have competed in all of them. In 2012, Janecke finished fourth overall. In 2013, ninth. In 2014, third. In all three events, the Lakers finished first.

“Jess is the total package from competitor to student to leader, she has an impact in all those areas, great team player and mentor, and she is very selfless. Three top 10 finishes and hopefully a fourth will cap her impressive career,” Baltes said. “She’s like the mother hen, always giving her time to her teammates and showing her support and she cares. Coaching her has made my job a lot easier because I don’t have to worry if the job is going to get done. It has been a joy and I look forward to this year and seeing if we can put the icing on the cake.”