GVSU freshman earns GLIAC recognition in stellar season

Adam Knorr

The GLIAC Women’s Freshman of the Year didn’t put any expectations on herself for her first competitive season as a Laker. She didn’t fret over finishing first every race. She didn’t press when things didn’t go her way. She simply came to GVSU, and took everything in.

“I learned from my high school experience that putting expectations on myself made me perform worse than I know I can,” said Gina Patterson. “I really came into this year with an open mind and an open heart to learn from the elite group of runners and the coaches that I have around me.”

Patterson, a Washington, Michigan native, thrived at Lutheran North High School as a prep athlete. As a high school senior, she placed third in the 3,200 meter race at the Division III state championships. Patterson’s high school to college athletic transition has gone seamlessly, something she partially credits to her teammates.

“The team has really taken me under their wing and made sure I adjusted comfortably. They have always taken all the pressure on themselves and told me that is it never on me,” Patterson said. “They have sacrificed a lot to make me feel comfortable, so I can enjoy my experience, run free and not feel any pressure at all during the race.”

Patterson has paid her teammates back, flying out of the gates this year and being a key cog in GVSU’s 15th straight GLIAC championship. In her first attached race this season, Patterson whipped down the course at the Greater Louisville Classic to set a new GVSU freshman record for a 5K race (17:11.17).

Last weekend at the GLIAC championship, Patterson’s breakout freshman campaign was recognized. She finished in second place at the meet, earning her All-GLIAC First-Team honors. She was also honored as GLIAC Women’s Freshman of the Year following the race.

“She is a very talented girl, and we knew that going in. What has made her successful is that she bought in to the program, listened to us and her teammates, and followed through with everything that we have asked her to do, looking to her teammates for guidance, listening to them and following in their footsteps,” said GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes. “She is also a very quality person, and always has a very positive attitude. (She is) a down-to-earth person that makes the most of her ability.”

The coaches are trying to be careful with Patterson’s mile total in an effort to avoid injury. Patterson’s training includes not only working with the varsity squad, but also doing the same workouts as the other Laker freshmen.

“For me, it’s more about the quality of the workout instead of the quantity of the miles that I hit during week,” Patterson said. “It’s a fine line between pushing the envelope to be able to run at the varsity level and not pushing too hard to where I injure myself. Coach Baltes and (Aaron) Watson do a great job making sure I stay at that level.”

Patterson has had the luxury of learning from some of the best runners in Division II, and, while she has led the team on the track, she has been mentored off.

“Jess (Janecke) and I have taken her under our wing and we are trying to show her the ropes so she can keep getting better. She has so much potential that she doesn’t even realize that she has,” said senior Jordan Chester. “She has been a great leader for us. Even though she is new to the team and the program, she drives us to better than we have previously been. She has been a really nice fresh breath of air to the team.”

Patterson and the Lakers will be back in action on Nov. 7 in Evansville, Indiana, as they compete in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championship.