Laker women win fourth-straight National Championship, men earn two All-American honors

Courtesy Photo / GVSU Athletics
GVSU Womens Track wins National Championships

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / GVSU Athletics GVSU Womens Track wins National Championships

Zach Sepanik


That’s the word that could be used to describe the Grand Valley State University women’s track and field team after winning the 2012 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field National Championship at the Eddie and Neta DeRose Thunderbowl in Pueblo, Colo.

With 90 team points, 11 better than second-place Lincoln University of Missouri, the victory marked the second straight outdoor title for the GVSU women, and the fourth-straight track national championship overall.

“It is exciting for this group of ladies and the entire program,” said GVSU men’s and women’s head coach Jerry Baltes. “All these individuals put in so much time and hard work and it came together in the championship.”

The throw crew led the way, as they have done throughout the track and field seasons. Junior Sam Lockhart finished second in the shot put with a new GVSU school record throw of 15.88 meters, while senior Lauren Buresh was close behind with a toss of 15.53 meters, finishing third. Lockhart finished second in the discus as well with a throw of 54.62 meters. Finally, junior Liz Murphy claimed the title in the hammer throw with a mark of 62.33 meters.

Another strong performance came from the pole vault combination of sophomore Kristen Hixson and senior Jocelyn Kuksa. Hixson finished first clearing 4.15 meters, breaking an NCAA Division II outdoor national championship record, while Kuksa claimed second at 3.85 meters.

“We have been on top last year and had a target on our back since then and we really went out there and proved ourselves, so I am really proud of our team,” Hixson said. “After winning the indoor [national championship], I knew I was going to have to step up my performance. I got a big mark the meet before nationals so I came in with a little more confidence.”

The Lakers earned big points from graduate students Rachel Patterson and Betsy Graney. Patterson finished third in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 17 minutes, 48.86 seconds, and Graney was close behind, finishing sixth in 17:57.10. Patterson also won the 10,000-meter run in 34:55.03, while Graney won the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 10:23.92.

To cap off the championship weekend, the sprinters contributed across the board as well. Freshman Brittney Banister earned fourth place in the 100-meter dash and senior Chanelle Caldwell finished eighth in the 800-meter run. Also, the 4×400-meter relay team of Caldwell, senior Adrienne Chandler, junior Leiah Hess and sophomore Kalena Franklin finished fourth.

Meanwhile, the GVSU men’s track and field team finished in a tie for 28th place with seven team points, all of which came via the pole vault.

“It was a great opportunity to get out and see what the rest of the nation has,” said redshirt freshman Bret Myers, who earned All-American honors after clearing 4.95 meters in the pole vault to finish third. “The guys are a few short steps away from being right back in it and placing in the top group of teams and making some noise.”

Joining Myers in earning All-America recognition was junior Raphael Gelo who finished seventh in the pole vault, clearing 4.85 meters.

Sophomore Donny Stiffler just missed out on All-American honors in the shot put, finishing 9th with a toss of 16.60 meters. Senior Anthony Witt capped off his Laker career with an 11th-place finish in both the 5,000-meter run and 10,000-meter run. Also, freshman Trent Chappell finished 13th in the high jump, leaping 2.05 meters.

“There is no doubt we lose some key seniors on both sides,” Baltes said. “They are never super easy to replace. But, we have a bright future in our returners. Just because you win a national championship doesn’t mean you put it on cruise control.”

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