Top-ranked XC teams set for national meet

GVL / Robert Mathews
Jerry Baltes

GVL / Archive

GVL / Robert Mathews Jerry Baltes

Nick DeMaagd

The path to compete for a national title is unknown to many, and those who have journeyed down that path rarely see it more than once. For the Grand Valley State men’s and women’s cross country teams however, that path is perfectly familiar.

This weekend in Louisville, Ky., GVSU will look to add more accolades to an already successful program under the guidance of head coach Jerry Baltes.

Baltes, now in his 16th season at the helm, has a résumé that many would dream to have. In less than two decades coaching the Lakers, Baltes has led the women’s cross country team to 15 national title appearances, winning four of them. The men have made 13 national title appearances, and they look to surpass last year’s second-place finish.

Competing for a national title is always the goal for Baltes, and every year his expectations remain the same. Having groomed 147 All-American athletes before this season, Baltes has high hopes for his runners.

“We’re ready to put our best race forward,” he said.

His leadership and dedication to his players is what has led to his success as a coach. Senior All-American Alan Peterson said Baltes gives the players the confidence they need and expects them to be great. Peterson, who was named All-American last year, will be the only senior running for the men’s team this weekend.

“If we have a good day I think it’ll be a fight to win the title,” he said. “If everything goes alright we should be in contention for the championship”.

The success of the women’s cross country team will depend upon its top performers, like seniors Hannah Osborn and last year’s third-place finisher Allyson Winchester, who have consistently proven themselves as top athletes.

Talent for the Lakers doesn’t stop with the seniors, however, as junior Jessica Janecke and sophomore Kendra Foley have made names for themselves in their time at GVSU.

Janecke is a two time All-American and placed fourth and ninth in the 2012 and 2013 championships, respectively. Foley was named All-American last year and placed eleventh at the national championship.

Janecke and Foley attribute their success to the team atmosphere that Baltes fosters, and said his influence has helped them off the track as well.

“The biggest thing I realized was learning balance,” Janecke said. “It’s a big part of life, and balancing school and practice and the memories and achievements you make are important”.

Laying ahead of the Lakers is a road filled with challenges as they head for Louisville, Ky. Expectations are high – and hopes even higher.

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