GV track and field gears up for indoor season

Ryan Brown competes in the 60m hurdles during a past home meet at the Laker Turf Building.

Andrew Mills

Ryan Brown competes in the 60m hurdles during a past home meet at the Laker Turf Building.

Kevin VanAntwerpen

The 2011 season means two entirely separate things for the Grand Valley State University men’s and women’s track and field teams. For the women, who finished second at nationals last year, it means it is time to tune up for the push toward a national title. For the men, who placed 23rd at last year’s outdoor championships and 29th at the indoor, it is a new dawn.

With the new season just beginning, GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes said he thinks the upcoming season will provide new opportunities for returning and new runners.

“We’ve got a lot of individuals who have an opportunity to step up and do great things,” he said. “The ladies side will hopefully be a challenge for the championship, and the men’s side hopefully will move as close to the podium and bringing home a trophy as possible.”

For the women’s team, the season will mean facing pressures to live up to the previous two seasons. The women have finished in the top four in each of the last two years, and Baltes said he expects just as strong an output this year as last year.

“We’ve got a group of individuals that can come together and defend our titles at the conference championships,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll move up a spot or two or three at nationals.”

Senior runner Megan Maceratini said the biggest challenge she expects is the altitude races in Albuquerque N.M., a challenge the team also faced during last year’s indoor championships.

“It makes it a lot harder to breathe, and we have to adjust,” she said. “It puts us at a disadvantage because all Colorado schools are used to training at altitude. It’s impossible to prepare for it in Michigan.”

For the men’s team, the expectations are high this year. The cross-country team ran for its best-ever third-place finish at nationals last semester, and every runner for the track and field’s distance event is a member of that cross-country team.

“The fact that all the distance guys are coming off of our best season ever just means that we’re going to go into the track season in pretty good shape,” said senior runner Anthony Witt.

This year’s batch of new runners may also play a key role in the success of the season, Witt added.

“I think this year, we’ve brought in one of the best overall recruiting classes in a while,” he said. “Our field events are stronger than ever. We brought in a lot of 400 guys, a lot of good hurdlers. Our distance is stronger. Overall, our program is ten times stronger than last year.”

The track and field teams experienced one obstacle before the season even started this year – last season’s cross-country nationals championships were several weeks later than usual, and many of the cross-country runners, also track and field runners, were forced to start a little later in the 2011 season.

“We still have to make sure those kids get their two weeks rest,” Baltes said. “It’ll slow us down a bit at the beginning, but we’ll be fine as the year progresses.”

The men’s and women’s teams have upcoming home meets at 4 p.m. today and at 6 p.m. Friday respectively as they host the Bob Eubanks Open. [email protected]