GVSU competes in track and field opener

GVL/Luke Holmes
Grand Valley hosted the GVSU Holiday Open in the Kelly Family Sports Center Dec. 4.

GVL/Luke Holmes Grand Valley hosted the GVSU Holiday Open in the Kelly Family Sports Center Dec. 4.

Jacob Arvidoson

Three indoor track and field records fell at the Kelly Family Sports Center during the GVSU Holiday Open on Friday.

Both the men’s and the women’s records in the 5,000-meter run were broken, as well as the women’s high jump. All three marks were bested by non-Grand Valley State competitors.

“We see it less and less because the records keep getting better and better,” said GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes. “In the first meet of the year, it says that it’s some pretty darn good competition.”

Student-athletes from 26 schools across the country came to compete at GVSU’s season-opening match in Allendale.

Eastern Michigan left the meet with the most points on both the men’s and women’s sides. Both EMU squads handily outscored their opponents. The women put up 133.5 points, while the men finished with 133.

GVSU’s women came in third with 77.5 points, while the men came in fourth with 68.

“First meet of the year there’s always some rust to bust off and get back in the competition swing of things,” Baltes said. “I always say you have some really good stuff happen, you have some average-to-bad stuff happen and you have some really ugly stuff happen. Hopefully, as we progress through the season we get more good, and less bad to ugly.”

Sophomore sprinter Angela Ritter gave GVSU a teaser of what she will bring to the team this season. Ritter posted the top preliminary time in the 60-meter dash, crossing the finishing line in 7.58 seconds.

“Ritter in the dash, in the first meet of the season. That was great,” Baltes said.

She would star for GVSU again in the 1600-meter relay. Running the second leg, Ritter received the baton in an unfavorable spot. The Lakers found themselves in last place with 15 meters between them and the next team. Even farther ahead, about 30 meters in front of GVSU, was the EMU team, which held the first place spot.

Ritter got the baton and exploded toward the other runners. Arms pumping, but still holding tightly to the baton, she zoomed past three of the runners in front of her.

With 100 meters to go, Ritter seemed to hit another gear while her opponents began to slow their strides. She got the Lakers fewer than one meter from second place. As her 400 meters came to a close, she handed the baton off to senior Brittany Terry.

Terry immediately passed the Loyola University runner to move GVSU into second. Down the stretch, she closed on EMU. Only two meters behind, she handed the baton off to junior Skylar Dantzler.

Dantzler closed the gap entirely, but strong running by EMU held off the late push. The Lakers finished less than a second behind with a time of 3:53.85.

Ritter and the relay team were not the only highlight for GVSU on the day.

“Zach Panning was really good in the men’s 5K,” Baltes said.

Panning, a redshirt freshman from Fort Wayne, Indiana, was able to claim the third-place spot for GVSU. With EMU’s Willy Fink on a record-setting pace in first place, Panning and Michigan’s Tony Smoragiewicz pulled away from the pack in the final 50 meters. Smoragiewicz edged Panning in the end by .15 seconds.

“I was really just trying to even split,” Panning said. “Just trying to run 68-second 400s consistently. I got a little slow in the middle, so me and him were both trying to do the same things. We both picked it up toward the end because we knew we had to. I feel like I gave it all I had.”

The GVSU throwers scored big points for the Lakers as well.

Junior Kaylyn Hill took first in the women’s weight throw with a toss of 18.18 meters. Redshirt junior Chris Saikalis forced the shot 18.11 meters in the men’s shot put to take fifth. Senior Darien Thornton also placed in the men’s shot put with a throw of 16.49 meters.

Thornton returned to star in the men’s weight throw. It was the last event to finish and the entire GVSU team was there clapping Thornton to victory on his final toss. With the Laker faithful urging him on, he recorded the event-winning throw of 21.38 meters.

“I started off slow, but started getting stuff around at the end,” Thornton said. “It’s my best season-opener, so I can’t complain there.

“It definitely helps when people support you. You get a little energy going and people are cheering you on and you’re thinking, ‘I gotta do this for my team.’ It definitely adds some distance.”

GVSU got another first-place finish in the men’s 800, as senior Ethan Barnes cruised to victory in 1:52.92.

“The first race is never easy,” he said. “But it’s good to get back out there and run 800s because that’s what I like to do.”

The GVSU teams won’t compete again until Jan. 15 at the GVSU Bob Eubanks Open. The event will also be held in the Kelly Family Sports Center.