GVSU set to host Al Owens Classic

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Ethan Barnes competes in the Mens 800 meter run on the second day of competition. Grand Valley State University hosts, for the second year in a row, the annual NCAA Division II Track and Field Championship competitions Thursday, May 21, 2015 through Saturday, May 23, 2015.

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Ethan Barnes competes in the Men’s 800 meter run on the second day of competition. Grand Valley State University hosts, for the second year in a row, the annual NCAA Division II Track and Field Championship competitions Thursday, May 21, 2015 through Saturday, May 23, 2015.

Jacob Arvidson

It has been over two months since Grand Valley State last hosted a track and field meet. After traveling around the country in search of warm weather and top competition, the Lakers will return home for the Al Owens Classic from April 22-23.

“In many ways, it is a relief to race at home,” said senior 800-meter star Ethan Barnes. “I know where to go and when to be there.”

For Barnes, the comfort level makes home meets so desirable.

“With a home meet, I know exactly what I will be getting into,” he said. “Plus, there will be no night traveling, missing classes or getting behind in homework, which can make the experience easier.”

Routines are important in track and field. Home meets don’t disrupt those routines for the student-athletes like road trips do.

“Having a home meet takes away a few different variables that we overcome when traveling,” said senior pole vaulter Jaime Roberts. “We get to sleep in our own bed and stick to our normal routine. It is comfortable to compete at home and we are more relaxed. Hopefully we will use that to our advantage to hit some big heights.”

Barnes had similar things to say, but also mentioned the advantage the GVSU runners have in knowing how the racing structure will be set up prior to the meet.

“Racing at home has several advantages,” he said. “First, I know the best places to run before the race. I have a usual warmup loop that I run, which helps with racing because I do not have to focus on how long I warm up. Next, when racing at home you have a better idea on how the race is going to go. Since we are the ones setting up the race, we can control if there is a pacer and if the race is run in alleys or lanes, which is nice to know up front.”

The meet provides another opportunity for the Laker athletes to earn qualifying marks to get them into GLIAC or national championships. Though winning is always a coveted result, earning or improving upon a national mark is of utmost importance at this point in the season.

“My expectations for the meet are to get through injury free and hit another personal best in the 100 and 4×100,” said Lawson Bright-Mitchell, a redshirt freshman sprinter. “We really need to get a good time in for the 4×100 so that we can qualify for nationals. I think this week will be the week that we make it happen.”

The Al Owens Classic couldn’t come at a better time for GVSU. With exam week just days away, every extra minute available for studying can make a major difference in the classroom.

“It’s a huge mental relief to have a home meet this weekend,” Roberts said. “Getting in a few extra hours of studying instead of traveling will definitely help everyone.”

After traveling to places like California, Florida and Kentucky over the past two months, the student-athletes have become accustomed to competing in warm weather environments. Their home is GVSU, however, and they are well aware of how unforgiving Michigan weather can be.

“I’m hoping for some sunshine and a nice tail wind,” Roberts said. “Sadly, it is Michigan, and for all we know it could snow or rain.”

The Al Owens Classic used to be held in early April. As a result, GVSU has learned to be flexible when it comes to the weather.

“In Michigan, we never know what we are going to get,” Barnes said. “We’ve had this meet held indoors before due to snow, or it could be 80 degrees. I am not overly concerned about the temperature, we just hope that there won’t be any wind for the middle and long-distance races.”

Being the first home meet in a while, and the first home outdoor meet of the season, the team expects major support from Lakers everywhere.

“I am hoping there will be more people out there supporting us,” Roberts said. “I know my family and other vaulters’ families will be making the trip to watch us.”

One week ago, Barnes was competing in California without anyone but his coach for support during his race. Competing at home will bring much more support for the 800-meter specialist and his teammates.

“There is a huge advantage running in front of your teammates, friends and family,” he said. “Last week, a group of us went out to California to race. Based on the schedule of their races, it was just me and my coach at my race. In contrast, we will have so many people that we know that will be cheering us on when we race at home.”

The Lakers will begin competition at the GVSU Lacrosse/Track and Field Stadium on the Allendale Campus at noon on April 22.