GVSU competes at WKU Hilltopper Relays

Working on his shot put, Chris Saikalis, practices on Feb. 4 in Allendale, MI.

Kasey Garvelink

Working on his shot put, Chris Saikalis, practices on Feb. 4 in Allendale, MI.

Jacob Arvidson

Grand Valley State track and field sent most of its team to Western Kentucky to compete in the Hilltopper Relays from April 8-9. Only GVSU’s distance runners were not present.

The WKU meet is generally regarded as the meet with the best weather.

“Western Kentucky, in the past, has been a good meet for me,” said GVSU triple jump specialist Samora Nesbitt. “That’s usually the warmest meet that we’ll have, so I really like that meet.”

This year however, the warmth was minimal.

“It was really cool for Kentucky,” said GVSU jumps coach Steve Jones. “We came down here looking for and expecting some nice weather, but it was darn near Michigan spring weather.”

Despite the lackluster conditions, Jones was pleased with the way the Lakers responded.

“The thing is, we still had an outstanding meet in my opinion,” he said. “I’m very proud across the board.”

The Lakers were able to hit 14 provisional qualifying marks on the weekend.

The GVSU throwers combined to produce several strong numbers. Sophomore thrower Dajsha Avery led the way, posting a distance of 14.54 meters in the shot put.

“It was a great day for Dajsha Avery in the shot,” Jones said. “She hit a personal record and posted a solid national mark.”

On the men’s side of the shot put, Chris Saikalis and Darien Thornton each put up provisional marks as well. Saikalis’ toss sailed 16.94 meters, while Thornton’s reached 16.66 meters.

Thornton starred in the hammer throw as well, earning a provisional mark with a heave of 61.12 meters. On the women’s side, Kyra Hull reached a distance of 54.51 meters to earn herself a provisional mark.

“I thought Kyra had a solid performance in the hammer,” Jones said. “And Darien Thornton had a good day all around with strong performances in both the shot put and the hammer.”

Senior Tor’i Brooks earned provisional marks in both the men’s long jump and the high jump. He started off with a 7.24-meter leap in the long jump and then followed it up later in the day with a 2.05-meter performance in the high jump.

“It was cold in the morning for the long jump,” Jones said. “But Tor’i was still able to put up a strong mark. It warmed up for the high jump and he was able to round out a decent day.”

The Laker women’s pole vaulters had a strong showing as well. They combined for four provisional marks between Jaime Roberts, Krista Nauseda, Whitney Bice and Skylar Schoen. Roberts and Nauseda led the way, clearing the bar at 3.86 meters, while Schoen and Bice each cleared at 3.71 meters.

Lawson Bright-Mitchell followed up his record-breaking 100-meter dash performance from one week earlier by earning another provisional mark in the event. He finished in 10.59 seconds to take second place.

“I felt blessed today, simply because I woke up this morning and got to wear my Grand Valley uniform,” Bright-Mitchell said. “I was also very happy and excited to run against some good competition. It wasn’t my best race, but I learned from it and I’m ready to compete next week.”

Two of the men’s hurdlers earned provisional marks. In the 110-meter event, Sean Wells crossed the finish line in 14.10 seconds, and in the 400-meter event, TJ Burnett was able to post a 52.49-second performance.

Though the men’s 4×400-meter relay team fell just short of a provisional mark, the Lakers were still able to beat out the Division I teams lined up against them and finish in first place. The team of Thomas Capers, Bright-Mitchell, Wells and Burnett posted a time of 3:15.31.

“It was a long day on the track, but it was good to see them improve and hit a 3:15,” Jones said.

The time of 3:15.31 doesn’t qualify the Lakers for the national championship meet, but it may qualify them for another coveted meet.

“Our 4×400 relay ran really well,” Bright-Mitchell said. “We won overall and we have a chance to compete at the Drake Relays.”

The Drake Relays aren’t scheduled until the end of April. Before then, the Lakers will split up and head to California and Pennsylvania from April 14-17 and then host the Al Owens Classic from April 22-23.