Lakers dominate tune-up meet

Adam Knorr

Year in and year out, the Grand Valley State University cross country teams have competed at a high level, consistently proving to be a force to reckon with on both the conference and national stages.

However, one major difference between GVSU and other national powers is that the Lakers don’t need their varsity team on the course to dominate a race.

GVSU laced up on Friday in Muskegon at the Jayhawk Cross Country Invitational to take on a host of collegiate and high school teams from around the state. The meet was an unorthodox one for the Lakers, as the varsity squad took a knee while the GVSU second crew and developmental group kicked up grass in a dominating effort.

“We ran pretty darn well as a whole,” said assistant coach Nick Polk, who commanded the Lakers on Friday. “We’re just trying to get everyone a chance to compete and give people looking for spots on varsity a shot.”

The Lakers seized their shot as the men’s squad annihilated the field, finishing in first place with a score of 27 points—exactly 30 fewer than runner-up Lansing Community College. In another oddity for the day, GVSU had a number of athletes running unattached, meaning they did not carry the Laker name during competition.

The Laker men managed to record finishes of first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and ninth-place finishes. Unattached GVSU runner Mark List took home his first collegiate win with a time of 25 minutes, 26 seconds. GVSU sophomore Ethan Barnes—attached to the team—posted a time of 25:38 in the 8,000 meters, good enough for second place and a personal record. Barnes, a career track runner who runs cross country to stay in shape, never imagined he’d run the long distances so well.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “I had no idea what to expect, honestly. About halfway through the race, I realized I was in the top five. Coach told us to wait until the last 2k to make a move and I was able to make a pass on the guy in front of me.”

Although the women ran 3,000 meters fewer than the men on Friday, the Laker presence was still felt. Unattached Laker Rachel Bendewald won the 5k with a time of 19:16, followed closely be fellow unattached freshmen Alex McBride and Kelly Haubert. GVSU only ran with three attached women, rendering them ineligible for official team scoring. Sophomores Taylor Smith and Natalie Nelson along with freshman Anne Redd finished seventh, eighth and 18th.

For Smith, her first healthy full collegiate season shows potential for a special future.

“I haven’t had any setbacks health-wise this year, and I’ve been able to come out strong,” Smith said. “I’ve been having really good workouts lately, and our training hasn’t been as hardcore, and I’ve been upping my mileage so all of that has helped me.”

GVSU will next be in action at the GLIAC championship meet in two weeks.