Lakers look elsewhere for national athletic prominence

Lakers look elsewhere for national athletic prominence

Emanuel Johnson

Once upon a time in the history of a fairly young university, the school’s athletic program struggled to gain attention in a pool of other more experienced programs.

It wasn’t until 2002 that the school gained national prominence when its football team put together a run that saw it win its first NCAA National Championship in both program and school history, and, on the backs of said football team, the school garnered interest and grew into very successful Division II university.

Today, however, the athletic program at Grand Valley State University has evolved. Despite the football team’s recent struggles to reclaim a national championship, GVSU has been able to capture the national spotlight in other athletic programs, as evidenced in a pair of National Championships brought back to Allendale by the women’s soccer team and the women’s cross country team, both of which competed in Louisville, Ky., this past weekend.

The women’s soccer team captured its second national title in as many years, a feat that hasn’t been seen in Division II women’s soccer since the University of California-San Diego (the team that the Lakers beat for the title) did it in 2000-2001. Not only did they win the championship, but they shut out each and every of their playoff opponents in the process.

It would have been the eighth national title in GVSU history, but the women’s cross country team had other plans. In justifying five grueling months of training and traversing six kilometers of a snow-laden path, the team brought home its first NCAA National Championship in program history. Although the highest individual performance was fourth-place, the Lakers pushed on as a team and collectively finished faster than any other school.

Saturday marked the first time in school history that two teams won national titles on the same day and in the same place. With the two victories, GVSU can now claim nine varsity sport national championships (four in football, two in women’s soccer, one in women’s volleyball, one in women’s basketball and one in women’s cross country) along with 14 club sport national championships.

While the university owes a debt of gratitude to its football team for its success in the early part of the decade, the pair of wins Saturday show that GVSU is no longer a football-only school.

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