GVSU track and field fueled for 2017 outdoor season

GVL / Emily Frye      
Joe Renner on Friday Jan. 20, 2016.

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Joe Renner on Friday Jan. 20, 2016.

Jacob Arvidson

The fire of dissatisfaction is roaring amongst the Grand
Valley State track and field teams following the 2017 indoor national meet, but
the displeasure has only inspired the Lakers for the outdoor season.

The Laker women took second place and the men took eighth at
the indoor national meet and both squads are eager to get the outdoor season
underway to prove they are better than their indoor finishes.

“It affects us a lot,” said senior distance star Kendra Foley.
“In cross country we got first and Adams State got second. And now (in indoor),
Adams got first and we got second. All of us are fired up because we want to
win the title. We wanted to win it indoor, and we were so close, so now I think
all of us are even more fired up, so that Adams doesn’t go two in a row.”

The Lakers left the indoor season with 19 All-Americans.
It’s no surprise they expect big things again from their top performers as the
team moves outdoors.

“Angie Ritter, Kendra Foley, Dajsha Avery. Watch the whole
team,” said senior thrower Kyra Hull. “We have a couple of meets to do some
amazing things.”

But there are others who didn’t earn All-American status
during the indoor season who will emerge as important parts of the outdoor

“Nate Orndorf was an All-American in the 10K last year and I
think he’ll have a solid 5K this year,” said indoor All-American Zach Panning.
“Look for him to double at outdoor nationals and score some points.”

Panning said he and teammate Chris May hope to join Orndorf
in both the 10,000 and 5,000-meter finals to help GVSU score points at

Foley has high hopes for Rachel Bendewald, saying the junior
is on the brink of something great.

“She broke through this year and broke five minutes in the
mile for the first time,” Foley said. “She is going to come back even stronger
in outdoor for the 1,500-meter run. She went down to nationals as an alternate
for the 1,200-meter leg of the (distance medley relay), so she has the speed
and I think she’s gaining the confidence.”

One Laker, Tyler Pavliga, is looking to emerge as a dominant
force in an event he is relatively new to. The junior will attempt to lead the
way for GVSU in the 400-meter hurdles. Teammate Samora Nesbitt sees a lot of
potential in Pavliga’s hurdling skillset.

“Last year, at the end of the year, he started to put it
together,” Nesbitt said. “Now, he’s really starting to put it together, from
the workouts I’ve seen him do. I think he’s really going to be able to

With the outdoor season comes the most unpredictable
opponent GVSU will face all year: the weather. Most of the athletes will train
indoors for the first several weeks of the season, though the throwers have
already moved into the biting cold.

“Us throwers start practicing in the snow while everyone
else is indoors enjoying the warmth,” Hull said. “I have my extra pairs of
socks, two pairs of sweatpants and two sweatshirts. For outdoor season, you
have to stay warm.”

With the challenge of the weather comes a need for increased
travel to get to competitions. GVSU is scheduled to travel as far south as
Florida and as far west as California, not to mention trips to Kentucky,
Kansas, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas. If anything, all the traveling puts
extra importance on the few meets the Lakers have at home, including the GLIAC
meet in early May.

“I’m excited that outdoor conference is here,” Nesbitt said.
“Being at home it’s so much easier. You have your routine, you have what you
would normally do, and you can just stick to it. You don’t have to get on a
bus, travel for five hours, take three hours off, and then go compete.”

But the athletes must chase warmer weather for most of the
season to increase opportunities at hitting qualifying marks for nationals. The
chase will begin right away as some of the Laker athletes begin competition as
early as March 17 at the CSU Spring Break Invitational in Charleston, South