GVSU men, women break records at track and field’s Big Meet

GVL / Robert Mathews 
Junior pole vaulter Raphael Gelo at the 2012 GVSU Big Meet on Saturday (Feb. 11).

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews Junior pole vaulter Raphael Gelo at the 2012 GVSU Big Meet on Saturday (Feb. 11).

Zach Sepanik

The Grand Valley State University Big Meet lived up to its name on Friday and Saturday as the No. 1-ranked Laker women indoor track and field team and No. 8 Laker men’s squad stepped up in big ways.

“Performance-wise, we had a lot of breakthroughs, a lot of people step up,” said GVSU men’s and women’s head coach Jerry Baltes. “We had kids move up the rankings on the national list and had great competition to hopefully prepare us down the road for the GLIAC Championships and Nationals.”

For the men on day one, senior thrower Daniel Vanek won the shot put with a throw of 19.00 meters. Not only was it an NCAA Division II Championship automatic qualifying mark, but a new Big Meet record.

“I am glad that I won,” said Vanek, whose toss was only 0.09 meters behind his school record throw he set a couple of weeks ago. “I never think about breaking any record when I am going into competition. I’m just focused on myself and want to throw the best I can at that moment.”

Senior Tyler Emmorey competed in the one-mile run and finished fifth with a time of 4 minutes, 7.96 seconds, only four-tenths of a second from breaking Nate Peck’s GVSU record set in 2006. Senior Anthony Witt also threatened another of Peck’s records, this time in the 3,000-meter run, as he finished with a time of 8:15.96, only 0.12 seconds behind the 2006 school record.

On day two, it was freshman Trent Chappell who shined as he won the high jump with a leap of 2.11 meters, a provisional qualifying mark and new personal record. Meanwhile, junior Donny Stiffler also hit a provisional qualifying mark in the shot put, while the other two marks for the men on the final day came from the distance medley relay teams competing for the first time this season.

“In these big invites like this, a lot of times the team doesn’t bring the full team so they are just bringing their strong points,” Baltes said. “It just depended on the event.”

The women saw 20 provisional qualifying marks on day one, along with six automatic qualifying marks. Nine more were added on day two, including three automatic marks.

Freshman Brittney Banister was the only Laker to hit a pair of qualifying marks. She hit provisional times in the 200-meter dash, at 24.94 seconds, and in the 60-meter dash, at 7.75 seconds.

“That was my goal this week, to make it on the national list and set a provisional mark, and I did in each event that I wanted to,” Banister said. “I ran the 400 too and I had never ran it. I did just what I expected I was going to do.”

Also on day one, the one-mile run belonged to GVSU with eight student-athletes hitting NCAA qualifying marks. Senior Betsy Graney finished in 4:47.74, just four seconds behind Monica Kinney’s school record. Additionally, junior Sam Lockhart and senior Lauren Buresh dominated the shot put, while junior Liz Murphy continued to improve in the weight throw.

On day two, it was the distance medley relay team of sophomores Madie Rodts, Aileen Lemanski and Lisa Galasso, along with senior Rachel Patterson, who ran an 11:37.02, currently the top qualifying time in the country, as well as Big Meet and Kelly Family Sports Center record.

While the final home meet of the indoor season, the GVSU Tune-Up, is set for Friday, the Big Meet results will be hard to forget.

“The one thing I want to highlight is the Big Meet had 1,910 athletes from all over the country,” Baltes said. “The meet itself can’t be put on without a lot of people working and doing a great job and that starts with our administration. Our athletic training staff, Eliza Macdonald, does an unbelievable job for us; Jamie Schlagel with event management and then all our officials and student-athletes who did a great job this week.”