Track and field prepares for the opening of outdoor season

Archive / Robert Mathews
Athletes like Joe Graves look to build off of the success of their indoor season as they transition to outdoor competition.

Archive / Robert Mathews Athletes like Joe Graves look to build off of the success of their indoor season as they transition to outdoor competition.

Pete Barrows

As the winter melts into spring, the Grand Valley State University track and field team shifts it’s focus back into the great outdoors and will work with the weather to un-thaw after a month of competitive inaction. Conditions permitting, GVSU will get back into the race beginning this Saturday at noon with a dual-meet against Saginaw Valley State University, which is scheduled to be run here in Allendale on the outdoor track.

“We still have quite a bit of snow on the track,” said GVSU distance coach Nick Polk. “It’s in the works that we might actually have the meet indoors if we can’t get the snow off. We’ve never had to that before, but it’s been a rough winter.”

One of the outdoor nuances is the added itinerary. The steeplechase, 10-kilometer, the 4×100-meter relay, the 400-meter hurdles and the javelin throw are all events unique to the outdoor variety of collegiate track and field and many GVSU student-athletes are preparing to transition.

400-meter open and relay racers Chris Teitsma and Logan Hoffman, both juniors, have participated in the 400-meter hurdles since they were freshman, but like many others on the team, are still devoting effort into regaining their stride.

“We know how many steps we take from blocks to first hurdle, from first hurdle to second and so on,” Teitsma said. “Everywhere up until the last hurdle, we usually count at practice. Logan sometimes does it in races, but once it becomes a race, then I just go off of feel. Whatever feels right at race is what I do.”

Both accomplished athletes already, both Teitsma and Hoffman are looking forward to chasing down new goals. Both have made multiple trips to national meets and would like to continue the trend.

“I’m sure we’d both like to make it to nationals for hurdles,” Hoffman said. “We both made it individually once (Teitsma in as a freshman, Hoffman as a sophomore), but we’ve never gone together. As a team for the guys, I think the goal is just to get many people there (to nationals) as possible, just kind of like we did for indoor. I think we’re all thinking obviously fourth (place as a team) or higher, but as long as we get people like we did indoor, we’ll take care of it.”

The Laker coaching staff is hopeful that 50-degree weather predictions for this weekend will hold true, but regardless of where the meet is run (outdoors or inside the Kelly Family Sports Center), the program is anxious to return to running competitively.

“I guess we consider it for the distance athletes a rust-buster for us,” Polk said. “We are racing people in a lot of odd distances, not their primary distances, and we’ll see that across the board in sprints as well. We’re going to put people in different situations to see how they compete, mix it up, and get out and get a good race in, regardless of what it is, to get the nerves going again. They (GVSU athletes) haven’t done that for about a month.”

Coming off of a 2013 indoor season in which a total of 40 GVSU athletes were shipped down to Birmingham, Ala. for the nationals to compete, and two fourth-place team finishes were returned. The GVSU outdoor squad that sent 20 women and 17 men to Pueblo, CO. for outdoor nationals in 2012 would appear to be in good shape. With the added events and varied conditions however, the transition between seasons sometimes mimics Michigan’s climatic shift between winter and spring.

“I think the best word would be indecisive,” said GVSU head track and field coach Jerry Baltes. “Turn of the season, trying to regroup, refocus – it’s just hard to tell. We haven’t been outside on the outdoor track yet, so we’ll see how this weekend goes, whether we’re able to get out there or do something in here (Kelly Family Sports Center). Either way, our focus is to bust the rust off and get going on the outdoor season.”

With an onus placed on the details, GVSU will continue their pursuit of little goals and nuances to ensure their bigger picture success. Like the winter they’ll shortly be leaving in their wake, the Lakers won’t have much time and certainly won’t be able to afford to waste any.

“It’s short, there’s only a few meets, and conference is going to be here and we’ll be ready for the NCAA championships,” Baltes said. “The biggest thing we’ve got to do is every opportunity we have, we have to make the most of it. We have to be ready to go whether it’s 70 degrees or 40 degrees.”
[email protected]