Lakers open season strong at Bulldog Invitational

GVL / Andrea Baker
Members of the Cross Country team check the results after the Bulldog Invitational in Big Rapids Saturday

Andrea Baker

GVL / Andrea Baker Members of the Cross Country team check the results after the Bulldog Invitational in Big Rapids Saturday

The Grand Valley State University men’s and women’s cross country teams opened the season with a bang this weekend at the Ray Helsing Bulldog Invitational at Ferris State University.

Nine men placed in the top 20 in the 8k race, while eight women placed in the top 20 during the 5k.

Sophomore Joe Graves, who placed second (26:06.12) in the men’s 8k, described the race as a “rust buster” and the competition as low key.

“It wasn’t an extremely difficult course, but it wasn’t easy either,” Graves said. “It was kind of deceiving – it had some rolling hills the whole time. It wasn’t a course you could easily get into a rhythm with, with some of the hills undulating the whole time. But it was a good course to test us our first week.”

At the meet, which took place Saturday on the Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids, Mich., GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes rested his top 12 men and top nine women in order to keep them fresh for next week’s meet at Michigan State University.

“It was sort of a rust buster for us,” Baltes said. “We had to see where our kids are that we did race, where their fitness is at. For the most part, it was a solid opener. We definitely have a lot of work left to do, but that’s always the case early in the season.”

In past years under Baltes’ leadership, both teams have seen spectacular results, including a national title for the women last year. Without running their top racers on both teams, the Lakers achieved top results, showing that they have it in them to outlast and outrun even the steepest of competition.

The runners, both male and female, that did run seemed never to tire, starting off with a sprint that left much of the competition behind before slowing to a more even and strong pace. Despite the strain that comes with a meet, the Lakers seemed comfortable and relaxed as they ran.

“The race was fairly low key, which is nice as an opener,” said junior Ashley Botham, who finished 12th overall (19:04.43). “For me, personally, the first race is really about remembering what it feels like to suffer through a race again and getting those competitive juices flowing. The team is in a really good position right now, coming off of last year’s national title, and we are excited to hopefully bring home another title this year.”

The team will next race in the Spartan Invitational Friday at Michigan State University. The race will begin at 1 p.m.

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