Back in shape: GVSU track and field makes transition into indoor season

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Grand Valley hosts the Holiday Open Track and Field meet on Friday, Dec. 1. 2017.

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Grand Valley hosts the Holiday Open Track and Field meet on Friday, Dec. 1. 2017.

D'Angelo Starks

The Grand Valley State indoor track and field season began Dec. 1, 2017,  just a little over a week after both the men’s and women’s GVSU cross-country teams competed in NCAA National Championships.

However, for those runners, the season never stops, as many of the cross-country runners also compete in the indoor season. Those runners get little-to-no break until school is out for winter break. For GVSU track and field coach Jerry Baltes, he has been through this process many times to help create the quick—yet seamless—transition. 

“A handful of them competed in that first meet in December,” Baltes said. “So, we carried right through from the national meet to that meet, and then they took two weeks low-key after the December meet. Everyone is getting a two-week break somewhere in there. The non-national runners got one a little bit earlier.” 

Winter break is something that could be bad for runners if they don’t have some sort of routine that helps them stay in shape over the break. Without training, the runners feared they could come back out of shape, forcing the team to recondition its athletes instead of working hard on getting better. Baltes had a plan for how he wanted his team to handle the long holiday break, though.

“I don’t like to take total time off because if you do, your body gets tight, you get out of rhythm and I feel as if we are more at risk for injury when we are coming back,” Baltes said. “We ask them to do something active at least every three or four days—whether that’s a bike, lift, swim or a brisk walk —and then when they come back, we just ease them back into things.”

Before break, the track and field team performed well in multiple events in their first meet of the season. There were several distance runners who finished strong in their races. There was a record broken by Bryce Bradley for the 5,000-meter indoors. Baltes named some runners he thinks are in a great position to succeed moving forward. 

“Zach Panning had that great race before break with Bryce Bradley and Chris May,” Baltes said. “They look like they’re in a good spot. Enael Woldemichael is also in a good spot. I think we have a good group on the guys’ side. Ladies-wise, Kelly Haubert ran well the other day; Stacey Metzger looked good. Rachel Bendewald and Allie Ludge had a session I was really pleased with.” 

Baltes emphasized the importance of easing everyone back in so they can get back into the routine while also avoiding injuries. He broke down the plan for getting the team ready now that they are back from break. 

“Basically, we are going hard-easy the next eight sessions,” he said. “I don’t plan on racing any of them this Friday. I would say about 75 percent of them will open up next Friday. Just going to continue to train and give them more time to get back into the swing of things.”

Baltes also had a lot of good things to say about the fitness level of his team coming of off the break. 

“We had our mini-camp Thursday, and I’ve been really pleased with what our kids did over break,” he said. “Most of them are home by themselves for two weeks without the access to the same facilities, and we are in this snowy climate. I’m really pleased with how our student athletes stayed fit or even improved their fitness.” 

At mini-camp, Baltes was able to get a read on the team chemistry and was highly satisfied with that. 

“I feel really good about our team dynamics,” Baltes said. “Our kids have bonded well outside of their event group, which is always huge for us, just getting to know each other so they can help and support each other. I think we are in a good spot physically, mentally and emotionally.” 

The GVSU track and field team continues its season on Friday, Jan. 12, at 10 a.m. with the Bob Eubanks Open.