Women win national title, men finish seventh at NCAA Championships

Courtesy Photo / GVSULakers.com

Courtesy Photo / GVSULakers.com

Brady Fredericksen

Two seasons ago, the Grand Valley State University women’s cross-country team was on top of the world. The team had broken through, winning its first national title after runner up finishes in the two years prior.

The Lakers failed to defend that championship last season, finishing in third.

But Saturday’s 2012 NCAA Cross-Country Championships presented the team an opportunity to win back that championship and place atop the medal stand, and it was a freshman that led the Lakers back to glory — putting together the best race of her young career on the biggest stage.

Jessica Janecke ran a fourth place, personal-best time of 20 minutes, 20.23 seconds — over two minutes faster than her previous best — to lead the Lakers to their second national title in three seasons. Not far behind was sophomore Allyson Winchester, who won the Midwest Regional two weeks ago and finished sixth this week with time of 20:29.0, giving GVSU two of the top six finishers in the race.

“I think just the notion that you’re running for something bigger than yourself — for your team,” Janecke said of her career day. “Knowing that every step, every part of the race is for the bigger purpose of your team, that really keeps you going the whole way.”

The women’s team finished just three points ahead of second place Augustana College, scoring 101 points to go with a 21:00.6 second average time. Also running for GVSU was sophomore Hannah Osborn, who finished 26th with a personal-record time of 21:08.7 — joining Janecke and Winchester as All-Americans after finishing in the top 40.

Sophomore Madie Rodts finished with a time of 21:25.8, good for a 42nd-place finish, while junior Courtney Brewis finished 51st with a time of 21:36.5. GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes applauded Brewis’ effort, in part, because she caught somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 runners in the second half of the race.

Senior Monica Kinney, an All-American after last season’s race, finished with a time of 22:03.9 in her first and final cross-country race since, while junior Kelcie Severson rounded out the Lakers’ contingent with a time of 22:20.5.

“I’m just thrilled for our ladies to be able to go out there and accomplish what they did,” Baltes said. “They ran a perfect race plan, executed the plan, and (had) great effort from start to finish. Three points isn’t much, but every position counted.”

The GVSU men, paced by senior Stephen Fuelling, put together a seventh-place effort on Saturday. The 2012 GLIAC Men’s Cross-Country Athlete of the Year, Fuelling led the Lakers with a time of 30:02.9, well enough for an 18th place finish.

“It’s all about the day. I think our training was great — I think Jerry would say that our training was pretty darn good, too — but (we) need to understand that it’s about the day,” Fuelling said. “I couldn’t ask for a better year as a senior with the guys, the synergy was there everyday, so that’s something I will never forget.”

The team’s seventh-place finish wasn’t what Fuelling had hoped for, but with the loss of five seniors from last season, saw positives in the younger runners gaining experience on Saturday.
Joining Fuelling in the top 40 was fellow senior Jake Isaacson, who finished in 33rd place with a time of 30:15.2. Isaacson and Fuelling were the lone All-Americans for GVSU.

Also running for GVSU was junior Josh Moskalewski (30:45.8), freshman Joe Duff with a time of 31:03.2 and junior Brent Showerman who crossed the finish line with a time of 31:06.4.

With the title-contending and top-10 consistency both programs have shown in recent years, the expectations for this meet have continued to rise and center on being one of the three teams on the podium.

Baltes said that’s absolutely the case, but also that it’s a mindset the runners have as well.

“Whether it’s the women running for a title or the men running for a team trophy, they put that expectation (on themselves),” Baltes said. “They’ve seen who’s coming for them and they understand the tradition of the program and the expectations and responsibility that comes with putting on the uniform.”
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