GVSU women’s, men’s cross country win GLIAC titles

GVL / Courtesy of Al Steible

GVL / Courtesy of Al Steible

Andy Smith

In a rerun of the most predictable show in Midwest collegiate sports, the Grand Valley State men’s and women’s cross country teams each won GLIAC championships over the weekend.

The Laker women won their 15th consecutive conference title, while the men, led by redshirt freshman Zach Panning, won their 14th straight.

“I am very proud of this and to be a part of the tradition, having won so many straight titles means that we have had a lot of very good runners come through the program,” said GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes. “I have to give a lot of credit to the coaches and support staff for believing in us and working as they have for this program.”

The No. 3 GVSU women edged No. 1 Hillsdale by a slim margin to capture their 15th straight GLIAC title. GVSU finished the day with 30 points, while the Chargers posted 38.

Redshirt freshman Gina Patterson continued her breakout campaign, crossing the finish line in second place with a time of 21:18.8, seven seconds behind Hillsdale’s Emily Oren.

Kendra Foley, the 2014 individual national champion, competed in her first race of the year for the Lakers. Foley notched a third place finish with a time of 21:25.9. Senior Jordan Chester finished in fifth place, as Jess Janecke rolled across the finish line in eighth place. Alison Work, Kelly Haubert and Jenna Klynstra snagged spots 12, 14 and 16, while Amy Creutz (21st), Rachel Bendewald (27th) and Jordan Storer (41st) also competed for GVSU.

Patterson, Foley, Chester and Janecke were all named First-Team All-GLIAC, while Work, Haubert and Klynstra snagged Second-Team laurels.

“I’m very happy with our team performance today. We knew going in that this was going to be a very tough meet because Hillsdale was ranked No. 1,” Foley said. “I thought we came together very well as a team, and worked very hard which allowed us to accomplish one of the goals that we had for the season.

“This is a great stepping stone for us and it allowed us to prove to ourselves how good we are, we still have a lot of work to do to get to our full potential as a team.”

The No.1-ranked Laker men finished with 24 points, far out-pacing the runner-up from Malone, which had 100 points. GVSU’s domination was carried out in textbook fashion, as it secured six finishes in the top 10.

Redshirt freshman Zach Panning was the top Laker finisher, striding across the finish line with a time of 24:07.0, a mere 0.2 seconds behind Tiffin’s James Ngandu, who won the race individually.

Fellow Lakers Wuoi Mach and Chris May were hard on Panning’s heels, finishing in third and fourth place, respectively, to earn First-Team All-GLIAC honors.

Bryce Bradley, Brady Selner and Chad Cini finished in seventh, eighth and ninth place to cement six Lakers in the top 10, as the three runners finished within two seconds of each other. The trio were all named members of the First-Team All-GLIAC following the race. Mitch Wilkins earned Second-Team All-GLIAC honors with an 11th-place finish. Trevor Sharnas placed 13th, but, due to conference rules, Sharnas couldn’t earn an All-GLIAC award because GVSU already had seven members named.

Kyle Flores (22nd) and Kousei Yajima (23rd) also competed for GVSU.

“We had a really great day, having such a successful day gives us great confidence as a team and sets us up very nicely to make a run at the national championship,” Cini said.

In addition to sweeping the team portion of the day, the Lakers won a number of individual conference awards. Panning was named GLIAC Men’s Freshman of the Year, while Patterson earned the same award for the women.

Baltes was named GLIAC Coach of the Year for both the men’s and women’s teams, marking the eighth consecutive year he has earned both honors.

The Lakers now aim their sights on the national level, as they advance to the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championships, hosted by the University of Southern Indiana on Nov. 7 in Evansville, Indiana.