GVSU track and field breaks school records to start the outdoor season

Courtesy / gvsulakers.com

Courtesy / gvsulakers.com

Jerod Fattal

The GVSU men’s and women’s track and field teams started the outdoor season on the road this weekend, competing in three different meets from Thursday, March 28 through Saturday, March 31.

The Lakers started the three-day tour in Gainesville, Fla., competing in the Florida Relays hosted at University of Florida.

“It’s important to start strong and try to get some NCAA qualifications out of the way early, so you can start to focus your training on the long term,” said coach Jerry Baltes. “Instead of focusing on a week-to-week or practice-to-practice approach, we can start to focus on the championship meets.”

Sarah Buella started the meet strong in the 400m dash, where she ran a career best 56.02 seconds.

Rachael Walters led the way on Friday for the Lakers, finishing fifth place overall and as the top DII athlete in the 800m run with an NCAA automatic time of 2:05.68.

“She’s already three seconds faster than where she started last year,” Baltes said. “She’s been the NCAA runner-up a couple of times in the 800 and I expect her to be in the mix for a national title.”

Daniel Walker highlighted the men’s performances in the 400m hurdles, finishing as the top DII athlete with a time of 53.71 seconds.

GVSU opened the season competing against Division I powers like Florida and North Carolina State, which the Lakers hope will help them come championship season.

“Hopefully it raises the bar for us and produces better results,” Baltes said. “Hopefully later in the season at championship meets we will be ready and prepared for competing against better competition.”

Zach Panning continued the Laker momentum Friday at the Raleigh, N. C. Relays, breaking his previously-held school record by more than 30 seconds in the 10,000m run with a time of 28:30.77, which ranks in the top 10 of the fastest times in DII history and earned him a bronze medal and the top DII athlete finish.

“He’s been on this path over the course of his career and the past couple of years we have held him back at this meet,” Baltes said. “Over the years he has developed into one of the best distance runners in the United States.” 

Dennis Mbuta and Colin Herrmann also ran personal bests in the 1,500m and 5,000m races with times of 3:46.98 and 14:25.83 seconds.

“(Mbuta) only ran track for two years in high school, so he’s only been racing competitively for four years,” Baltes said. “He just continues to learn, progress and get stronger as a runner.”

On the women’s side, three different athletes started their season strong with three personal records. Hanna Groeber crossed the line in the 10,000m with a time of 34:54.23 seconds and Madison Goen followed her up in the 5,000m, finishing in 16:46.48 seconds. Allie Ludge rounded out the day in the 1,500m with a time of 4:22.33.

Ludge concluded her weekend Saturday at the final day of the Raleigh Relays with a fourth place finish and new personal record in the 800m, crossing the line in 2:08.63 seconds. Mbuta won the lone gold medal of the weekend in the following race, clocking in at 1:49.89 seconds, which was the fastest time at the invite.

GVSU saved their best running for last, breaking two more school records in the 4x200m relay at the final of the Florida Relays on Saturday. The relay team composed of Eby, Nicole Sreenan, Willow Stuedemann and Angelica Floyd crossed the line in 1:39.17 seconds and breaking the previous record by over five seconds, which was set back in 2000.

In the following race, the men’s 4x200m relay team of Walker, Jordan Johnson, Jahaven Haye and Andrew McFarland finished in 1:27.44 seconds, breaking the previously held record of 1:28.33 set back in 2000.

In the field events, Hunter Weeks finished the day for the Lakers, taking third overall in the high jump, with a jump of 2.06m.

The Lakers had a good start to their season, but adjusting from the indoor to the outdoor season can have its challenges.

GVSU competed well, but both the men’s and women’s teams weren’t satisfied with the final results.

“We didn’t race as strongly as we would have liked to this weekend,” Baltes said. “Hopefully it helps prepare us for a couple of the big meets we have coming up over the next couple of weeks.”

Both teams will both be back in action April 5 at Western Kentucky for the Hilltopper Relays and Saturday, April 6 at Michigan State for the Spartan Invite.