GVSU cross country squads with strong outing

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Kyle Flores

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Kyle Flores

Andy Smith

On Saturday, the Grand Valley State cross country team competed in the Greater Louisville Classic against a number of top Division I opponents. The Lakers left Louisville feeling fine and moving down the right track as they continue their quest for Joplin, Missouri and a pair of national championships.

The Laker men came away with a ninth place finish, as the GVSU women finished in 12th place as the Lakers raced at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park – the site of the 2014 national championship meet.

“We had a lot of good things happen for us today, we made some good progress and took steps in the right direction, but we still have a ways to go to be where we want to be,” said GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes. “But we do feel good where we are at this point at time as a team.

“This is a great competition for our team to be in, it’s a really deep field and we had a lot of kids racing deeper in the pack than they are used to, but hopefully being in a race like this will help in the long run as they could be in a similar situation at nationals.”

Freshman Gina Patterson led the way for the Laker women in her first college race. Patterson zoomed past most of the field and came away with a ninth place finish for GVSU with her time of 17.11.17 – the fastest women’s time in school history for a freshman on a certified 5K course.

“It was really exciting to be able to finally put on the Laker uniform,” Patterson said. “I wanted to do my best to represent the team and show them what I can do, and it is such a great honor to be a part of such a great program and team.”

Senior Jessica Janecke battled her way through the tough competition and came away with a 63rd place finish in a field of 260 with her time of 17.49.18.

“This was a good step forward for us as a team. It was a very deep field. It also gives us a feel for what it is like to be in a big meet and gets us ready for the national championships later on,” Janecke said.

Senior Jordan Chester earned a 76th place finish (17.57.87), as junior Alison Work finished in 129th place (18:19.76) and sophomore Jenna Klynstra came away in 140th (18:25.66). Rachel Bendewald (190th, 18:53.36), Jordan Storer (197th, 18:58.77), Amy Creutz (200th, 18:59.99) and Katelyn Cliff (228th, 19:21.03) also competed for GVSU.

Freshman Zach Panning again posted a strong meet, leading the GVSU men thanks to a 19th place finish (24:25.06). Panning finished first among GVSU runners for the second consecutive meet, following his seventh place finish in the season-opening Spartan Invitational. His time is one of the best for a freshman on a certified 8K course in Laker history.

“It was a pretty good race for us as a unit. I am pretty excited about my performance the last two weeks, but the main focus is we are one big unit and we want to succeed as one,” Panning said. “It is awesome to see this kind of competition against the bigger schools. It teaches us how to race and gets us ready for nationals.”

Senior Ricky Perez pulled in next for the Lakers, earning a 49th place finish with a time of 24:47.98. Senior Kyle Flores finished in 24:49.32, good for a 54th place finish. Junior Chris May was right on Flores’ heels in 55th place (24:50.23), as junior Brady Selner pulled in 58th place (24:51.51). Chad Cini finished in 64th, Mitch Wilkins finished in 66th and Wuoi Mach finished in 71st for GVSU.

Sophomore Trevor Sharnas finished in 83rd (25:11.53), and junior Bryce Bradley pulled in at 97th (25:20.42).

The Laker cross country teams are back in action next weekend in the Conference Crossover meet in Romeoville, Illinois.