Two Lakers secure individual titles at NCAAs

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Sean Wells

GVL/Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Sean Wells

Andy Smith

The Grand Valley State track and field teams came up short in their quest for national titles over the weekend, but a pair of high finishes and two individual champions gave GVSU a strong showing.

Both GVSU teams led after day one of the NCAA Division II National Championships, hosted by University of Alabama in Huntsville and the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Ala. The No. 2 Laker men finished in a tie for second place with GLIAC foe Findlay with 40 points and five points behind national champion Adams State, while the Laker women came away in sixth place with 29 points. Central Missouri won the national crown on the women’s side with 49 points.

“The feeling is a little bittersweet for the team,” said GVSU coach Jerry Baltes. “The second-place finish for the boys is the highest ever. I am really proud of the way the teams competed this weekend.”

“There will be a little bit of extra motivation for the teams (in the outdoor season). The guys because they are so close to being champions, and for the girls to get back to the top four.”

Twelve Lakers were crowned as All-Americans on day one, including national champion Amy Cymerman.

Cymerman ran by the competition in the 5000 meter run (16:34.13), becoming the team’s first national champion in an indoor running event since Rachel Patterson in 2012 (5000 meter run). Kendra Foley, GVSU’s reigning cross country national champion, joined Cymerman as an All-American in the event with a fifth-place finish (16:56.36)

Later in the meet, Cymerman claimed her second All-American honor in the 3000 meter relay with teammates Hannah Osborn, Breanna Luba and Natalie Nelson. They finished in sixth place.

The Laker women added three more All-Americans in field events. Two came from the pole-vault crew, as Jamie Roberts finished third (4.00 meters) and Jennifer Schornak finished seventh (3.75 meters).

Laura Schroeder rounded out the list of day-one All-Americans for the GVSU women with her throw of 18.12 meters in the weight throw, which was good enough for an eighth-place finish.

On the men’s side, Bryce Bradley finished fifth in the 5000 meter run (14:20.05) while the men’s distance medley team of T.J. Burnett, Joel Rietsma, Ethan Barnes and Wuoi Mach claimed All-American honors with their fifth place-finish (9:53.47).

GVSU added four All-Americans in field events. Darien Thornton, Jay Lechner and Blake Donson finished second, seventh and eighth in the weight throw, respectively. Trent Chappell also earned All-American laurels with his fourth-place finish in the high jump (2.12 meters).

Sean Wells led the way on day two, as the Lakers picked up three more All-American plaudits.

Wells brought home the second national championship for the Lakers after flying by the competition in the 60 meter hurdles with a record-breaking time of 7.78. Wells becomes GVSU’s first individual men’s sprinter champion in school history and the first individual champion since 2008, when Bryant Wilson won the pole vault. It was the third time this season Wells broke his own school record.

“Winning the national championship means that I am blessed,” Wells said. “I will use it as a stepping stone and it will keep me motivated and help me to be able to get ready for the outdoor season.”

“Hurdles are a really unique event, you don’t always know what to expect in terms of the race. Hopefully, God-willing, I’ll be able to compete at the highest level in the outdoor season also.”

The GVSU program had two more athletes earn All-American honors, as Ethan Barnes took third in the 800 meter run (1:50.40) and Cymerman picked up where left off by earning her third All-American honor with her sixth-place finish in the 3000 meter run (9:37.28).

GVSU begins the outdoor season from March 27-28 at the Raleigh Relays. The Lakers also host SVSU on March 28 in a dual meet, as well.