Headline: EASY AS 1-2-3

Subhead: Laker women sweep podium, win third straight national title

By Jay Bushen

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In less than 10 seconds, the Grand Valley State women’s cross country team cemented its standing as an NCAA Division II dynasty.

GVSU sophomore Kendra Foley, senior Allyson Winchester and junior Jessica Janecke trotted their way through swamp-like conditions en route to an unprecedented podium sweep in a field of 249 runners at EP Tom Sawyer State Park on Saturday, securing top-ranked GVSU a third straight national championship — its fourth in five years.

“The fact that we went one-two-three is absolutely amazing,” Foley said. “I don’t think that’s ever been done and it could have gone in any order. I could have been third, Jess could have won or Ally could have won and we would have been happy either way.

“I think that shows just how much of a family we are, and also just hearing all of the GV fans when you’re coming down to the finish — that was the best part.”

A sea of Laker supporters and student athletes roared as Foley (21:05.80), Winchester (21:11.50) and Janecke (21:14.70) crossed the finish line, respectively. For Winchester, it was an “unreal” way to close out her cross-country career at GVSU.

“It was emotional,” Winchester said. “I’m not an emotional person. I usually don’t cry, but seeing everyone come together and just all the support around us was phenomenal.”

The Lakers finished with 50 points as a team, easily outdistancing GLIAC competitor and runner-up Hillsdale (115 points). Minnesota-Duluth (118), Adams State (125) and Augustana (206) rounded out the top five.

Six GVSU runners finished in the top 40 to earn All-American plaudits. Senior Hannah Osborn came in 17th place (21:49.70), junior Jordan Chester crossed 27th (21:59.20) and sophomore Amy Kreutz took 30th (22:03.10). Freshman Kelly Haubert earned 42nd place.

“It’s a talented group of ladies, but more importantly a special group of ladies that’s just committed to each other,” said coach Jerry Baltes after being soaked by a Powerade shower.

The soggy conditions were a challenge to runners and spectators alike at the event. Muddy terrain and large puddles of water appeared to be a hindrance for some runners, although the Lakers didn’t seem too concerned by the less-than-ideal conditions.

“No race is easy,” Janecke said. “Jerry always says it ain’t going to tickle. You have to be the toughest team when it comes and if it was easy, then all of this wouldn’t be worth it. That’s what makes this special. You’re running through knee deep, water’s flying in your face. The first 300 meters a piece of mud flew up into my eye and I was blinded pretty much.”

The national title was the first of two on the day for GVSU, as the soccer team also defended its national championship against Rollins with a 3-0 win on Saturday night.