Nation’s top teams set to clash in GVSU 5-Way

GVL / Robert Mathews 
Kalena Franklin competing in the 60m hurdles.

GVL / Robert Mathews Kalena Franklin competing in the 60m hurdles.

Tate Baker

The women’s track and field programs of Grand Valley State University and Lincoln University will have some unfinished business to address come Saturday.

One of the two programs will be able to claim its dominance over the other as No. 1 Lincoln makes the 560-mile trek to face off against No. 2 GVSU in what figures to be a neck-and-neck showdown at the Kelly Family Sports Center in the GVSU five-way.

The Lakers and Blue Tigers both capped off impressive fall seasons with exactly 51 points in the NCAA Division II Outdoor National Championships eight months ago, which was good enough to tie for third place.

“It’s going to be one of the most exciting days of track and field at Grand Valley in quite some time,” senior pole-vaulter Kristen Hixson said. “It has a Nationals-type feel with Lincoln competing in the meet. I think we’re all ready to embrace the moment.”

The Lakers are going to have to find a way to win without senior sprinter Kalena Franklin, who went down with an injury while competing in the 60-meter hurdles in a meet at Saginaw Valley State University on Friday.

Head coach Jerry Baltes said his team is going to have to dig deep without one of its key leaders.

“I challenged our athletes this week in practice to respond,” Baltes said. “That’s exactly what it’s going to be — a challenge. She’s a huge part of our team and it’s going to take a huge effort from our entire team to make up for her absence.”

The atmosphere will also be electric on the men’s side as the No. 4 Lakers look to defend their home track against Lincoln, No. 11 Lewis University, Hillsdale College and St. Joseph’s College.

“This will be a great chance for our guys to continue to gain momentum as they will be going up against a number of good teams,” Baltes said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere the entire day; hopefully we will seize the opportunity.”

Shortly after the GVSU five-way meet is finished, the venue will play host to a dual meet between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

The pair of in-state rivals also collided at GVSU in 2013 at the Winter Classic, which was the first time the men’s teams had gone head-to-head in a dual meet since 1982 and the first time ever between the women’s teams.

“This is an event that will bring a lot of people to Grand Valley. It’s really a unique opportunity,” junior Jessica Janecke said. “Hopefully the Kelly Family Sports Center will be packed from the start of the day leading up to the dual between Michigan and Michigan State.”

The GVSU five-way will begin at 1 p.m. and will be promptly followed by the Michigan/MSU dual meet at 6 p.m. Day-of-the-meet ticket prices will be $10 for adults and $5 for students, children and seniors. VIP Track Level tickets will be $15.