GVSU track and field competes in Holiday Open, first event of the season

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Grand Valley hosts the Holiday Open Track and Field meet on Friday, Dec. 1. 2017.

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Grand Valley hosts the Holiday Open Track and Field meet on Friday, Dec. 1. 2017.

D'Angelo Starks

The Grand Valley State men’s and women’s track-and-field teams kicked off their indoor season at home on Friday, Dec. 1, with the Holiday Open held at the Kelly Family Sports Center.

The Holiday Open is the first and only meet that the Lakers participate in before the winter break, but what makes it interesting is the way it’s run. 

“It’s just an open meet where everyone gets the chance to come and compete,” said track-and-field coach Jerry Baltes. “We had a lot of small squads. A lot of schools brought two to five athletes. A handful brought their full field and sprint teams. Some brought only distance runners just trying to get national qualifiers out of the way. Each program had their own focus and goals for the other day.” 

The indoor track-and-field season is different than the cross-country or outdoor-track season. 

“Each of our meets is a qualifying opportunity for the NCAA Championships in March,” Baltes said. “Basically, what happens is our performances get put on the national list, and at the end of the indoor season, they take the top 16 to 18 individuals in each event onto the National Championship. So, every meet we compete in, we are trying to better our marks to put us in a position to compete at the National Championship.”

The Lakers had a successful day in multiple areas in Friday’s meet. They had some top finishers with times that will likely qualify, record setters and automatic qualifiers. 

Bryce Bradley finished in second with a time of 13:59.04 and set a GVSU indoor record for the 5K race, a record that was set last season by Zach Panning. Bradley, Panning and Chris May all finished with times good enough to be automatic qualifiers for the national championship. The other school record from the day was set by Tommy Capers, who finished with a time of 34.21 in the men’s 300-meter. 

The women’s 4×400-meter relay team of Nicole Steenan, Angela Ritter, Heather Johnson and Rachael Walter ran a great race and finished in first with a time of 3:43.91. Ritter did well, individually placing third in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7:59. That time will likely be good enough to qualify. 

The women performed well in the distance running events. Kelly Haubert finished in seventh in the 5K with a time of 16:52.26. Allie Ludge finished in 6th in the 3K with a time of 9:39.05. Both times will likely be good enough to qualify. 

Other notable performers for the Lakers were Dennis Mbuta, who finished first in the 800-meter dash with a time of 1:51.06; Hunter Weeks, who finished first in the high jump with a 2.10-meter jump; Dajsha Avery, who placed first in the women’s shot put with a throw of 14.83 meters; and Bobbie Goodwin, who came in first in the weight throw with a throw of 18.07 meters. 

Baltes talked about how the team can still improve over winter break. 

“The biggest thing over break is we know kids won’t have access to the facilities to make themselves a lot better,” he said. “What we need to do to get some work in to make sure we don’t go backwards.” 

The Lakers won’t be in action again until the new year when they compete in the Bob Eubanks Open on Friday, Jan. 12, in Allendale.