T&F teams finish fourth, sixth at nationals

GVL / Archive
Kalena Franklin

GVL / Archive Kalena Franklin

Tate Baker

The Grand Valley State University teams came up just short of meeting their goals at the 2014 Division II Indoor Track and Field National Championships in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The No. 2 Laker women and No. 4 Laker men began the two-day event with high expectations on Friday, and although both teams finished lower than they had expected, they still finished as a top-tier program. The women finished in fourth place; the men came in sixth.

“It was a little bit disappointing, however that doesn’t take away from what these kids have accomplished all year,” coach Jerry Baltes said. “We have lofty expectations in this program — a pair of top-10 performances is pretty impressive anyway you look at it.”

The Lakers struggled to put it all together in the women’s meet with 44 points.

Adams State University claimed the national title by tallying 67 points.

“I don’t think it was necessarily what we expected to come out with,” said GVSU senior Courtney Brewis, who finished as the runner-up in the 5,000-meter run. “It’s not something we are going to hang our heads on.

“A fourth place finish at nationals is a great performance. Plus, we still have (the outdoor season) ahead of us.”

Senior Kalena Franklin, who was named the Midwest Region Track Athlete of the Year on March 10, stood out for GVSU with a number of impressive performances.

Franklin earned three All-American accolades. She began the weekend with a third-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles, followed that up with a seventh-place finish in the 200-meter dash, and concluded the robust campaign by anchoring the 4×400 relay team to a fourth-place finish.

“She continues to accomplish more each and every weekend,” Baltes said. “We are all really excited for her in the spring season as well.”

Senior Kristen Hixson came into the national meet as the favorite in the pole vault after a record-breaking season, but she was unable to clear the bar in all three attempts.

She was unable to reach the podium as a result.

“It was just one of those days for her,” Baltes said. “Unfortunately it came at the national meet. The bar just wouldn’t stay on in her attempts.”

On the men’s side, it was a neck-and-neck race for the championship as St. Augustine University edged Adams State University (84.5 to 83). GVSU finished with 29.5 points.

“I know a sixth-place performance wasn’t something that we necessarily wanted to finish with, but overall it’s a finish that we can be proud of right now,” sophomore Blake Donson said. “We will be right back to work next week, you can count on that.”

The strongest outing for GVSU may have come from its strongest group of men, as the throwing crew was able to post a double-digit performance for the Lakers.

In the weight throw, sophomore Darien Thornton led the way with a third-place finish through a throw of 21.09 meters. His classmates, Donson and Jay Lechner, also tallied points for the Lakers with throws of 19.73 and 19.27 meters on their way to sixth and seventh place finishes, respectively.

“We came in extremely focused as a group, and that translated to how we competed,” Donson said. “Having such a strong group for one event really motivates you. Our performances were really dictated by how well our group did as a whole.”

Although the Lakers were unable to meet their lofty title expectations, they still figure to be one of the nation’s top teams in the outdoor season.

And in a few months, they hope to capitalize in the 2014 Outdoor Track and Field National Championships on their home turf in Allendale.