GVSU women win 2016 NCAA National Championship, men finish runners-up

GVL / Courtesy - GVSU Sports Info

GVSU Sports Info

GVL / Courtesy – GVSU Sports Info

Danny Schwartz

Last year, the Grand Valley State women’s cross country team fell just short of their fourth straight national title after placing second at the NCAA National Championship. Also last year, GVSU senior and star runner Kendra Foley fell short of an individual national championship when she came in 2nd place by 0.3 seconds.

This year, both shortcomings were avenged.

The GVSU women’s cross country team brought home their fourth national title in five years this past Saturday, Nov. 19 at the NCAA Division II National Championships in St. Leo, Florida. Star runner Kendra Foley won her second individual national title, the first coming in 2014.

The GVSU men finished in second place, with Adams State bringing home the first place gold.

All-American honors were also given to the top 40 in both races.

For the women’s side, national champion Kendra Foley finished first overall with a time of 20:01:8.

“I think what set us apart from everyone else at nationals was that we mentally prepared so much for it,” Foley said. “We tried to go into the race with a calm mindset and knowing that we can do it. The girls have worked so hard throughout the season and each week we just got a little bit better. Coach (Jerry) Baltes is always looking for that one percent, and we had it today.”

A problem GVSU had at nationals was the weather. It was about 60 degrees to 70 degrees during the race and the sun was out, and it affected a lot of the competition. It affected the men’s team even more, as they ran a 10K instead of a 6K.

The heat got to GVSU’s Bryce Bradley, who fainted with a kilometer to go, and had to go to the hospital afterward to be rehydrated.

With this being her final cross country race, Foley is glad she went out on a winning note, and is optimistic about the future of the team.

“It hasn’t completely hit me,” Foley said. “I know this is it for me but I think more than anything, I wanted to leave nationals knowing I gave everything I could to this program. Knowing I did everything I could to make this team the best it could be is what matters most to me.”

Also for the GVSU’s women’s side, freshman Stacey Metzger finished in 15th place, with a time of 20:57:8, while Kelly Haubert finished in 35th with a time of 21:22:2. Finishing in 40th was GVSU’s Amy Creutz, with a final time of 21:30:3.

For the men’s side, an impressive four GVSU runners finished in the top 18. Zach Panning finished fifth overall with a time of 29:58:3, while senior Chris May finished 10th overall with a time of 30:37:5.

“I could not be prouder of my teammates,” May said. “We worked really, really hard this season and we’ve really grown as people.”

May believes that from the team perspective, they were certainly hoping for something a little bit different.

“We were in first place with one kilometer to go when one of our guys fainted, so it’s a little heartbreaking to know we were so close to it happening, and then it didn’t happen,” May said.

Nate Orndorf finished right behind May in 10th place, with a time of 30:40:7. Trevor Sharnas finished in 18th place with a time of 30:51.3.

“Any time you have an individual national champion, a team national championship, four guys in the top 18 and being the men’s runner up is a pretty good day,” Baltes said.

In her final cross country race, four-time All-American and two-time individual national champion Kendra Foley believes the future is bright for GVSU’s cross country team.

“I think the program is in extremely good hands,” Foley said. “Each year we set the expectation a little higher, raise the bar and try to top our own selves. These guys and girls now know what it feels like to win, and they’re going to want to keep that tradition going.”