Some things never change

GVL / Robert Mathews
Freshman Ricky Perez participating in the 800 Meter Run

GVL / Robert Mathews Freshman Ricky Perez participating in the 800 Meter Run

Pete Barrows

Blink 182’s “All the Small Things” and ‘N Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye” both charted on the billboards in 2000, the same year that the Grand Valley State University women’s track and field program captured its first GLIAC championship under current head coach Jerry Baltes.

Thirteen years later, popular music stylings have shifted, but the Lakers have continued to dominate the conference. Friday’s victory at Ashland’s home Ferguson’s Field was the GVSU women’s 14th straight outdoor track and field GLIAC crown.

“Though our women won, it was not our best performance as a whole,” Baltes said. “We are fortunate to have great depth to make up for slipups along the way.”

When a program has experienced as much sustained success as GVSU has, it would be easy to become complacent and even easier yet to nitpick results. Championship results are not produced by resting on laurels, and Baltes and the rest of the Laker program have established a high resting expectation bar to take aim at. That said, their 14th title, which was taken by a 220-109 (111) decisive point margin over runner-up Ashland University, was no fluke.

“We had some great performances over the course of the meet,” Baltes said. “(Junior Hannah) Osborn was great in the steeple setting a GLIAC record (10 minutes, 26.34 seconds), (senior) Andrea Kober ran a great 400 hurdle race (1:02), and (junior) Kalena Franklin was awesome in the 100 hurdles (13.46), all winning their (respective) events. (Senior) Sam Lockhart was incredible as always. Two GLIAC meet records (in shot put and discuss) and re-breaking her NCAA all-time furthest throw in the discus (58.87 meters) is simply amazing. She is truly special.”

Lockhart, who has been named the U.S Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USSTFCCCA) National Division II Athlete of the Week multiple times this season, claimed the longest discuss throw, has four of the top eight marks, has the no. 2 and no. 3 longest shot put tosses in Division II history and ranks in the top three among all female athletes in the discuss. She also became the first GVSU student-athlete to win the GLIAC Outdoor Women’s Field Athlete of the Year and has been nominated as the GLIAC representative for the USTFCCCA Midwest Regional Field Athlete of the Year.

Osborn joined Lockhart and has been nominated as the GLIAC representative for the USTFCCCA Midwest Regional Track Athlete of the Year after winning the 3000-meter steeplechase, turning in the fourth-best time in Division II this year.

Not to be outdone, the men’s squad, who scored 169-points and finished second in the conference behind Ashland’s 199-points, also merited GLIAC podium recognition. Sean Wells, who hit a provisional qualifying mark in the 110-meter hurdles (14.35 seconds) and helped the 4×100 relay (41.54 seconds) comprised of sophomores Jesse Schwartz, Brent VanEnk and junior Nathaniel Hammersmith to a third place finish, was named the GLIAC Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Freshman Runner of the Year.

“Our men got beat by a great Ashland squad who competed very well on their home track,” Baltes said. “We had some very positive performances led by two freshman finishing runner-up in their individual events—Sean Wells in the 110 high hurdles and Darien Thornton in the hammer throw (65.38-meters), with both performances (setting) new school records.”

It may not have been the first-place finish the Lakers had hoped for, but there was plenty to take pride in, especially considering the quality of their competition (Ashland was ranked No. 2 in the USTFCCCA in the Mar. 5 poll).

“On the men’s side, Ashland had a great day,” said GVSU distance coach Nick Polk. “They were able to win the majority of the running events, which makes them tough to beat. I’m very proud of (junior) Josh Moskalewski. He ran 15,000 total meters of running (won the 10k in a time of 30:39.61 minutes and then finished fourth in the 5,000-meter run in a time of 15:01.46 minutes, combining with teammate first and second place finishers sophomore Alan Peterson and senior Stephen Fuelling to score 23 points, the most in one event for the men during the meet) and did it for the team. He set a great example for the rest of the team of what it means to be a Laker.”

Between the two halves of the whole, over 44 qualifying marks, six individual titles, four school, two GLIAC and one national record(s) were accumulated and for the ninth time in the last 10 years (and 13th time overall), Baltes, who bridges the men and women halves together, was named the GLIAC Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Coach of the Year. A great deal can change in the span of 14-years, but there are still some entities built to last.

GVSU will host a pair of last-chance and appropriately named meets, the GVSU 2nd to Last Chance meet on May 10 beginning at 1p.m. and the GVSU Last Chance meet May 11 beginning at 11 a.m., at the Laker Track and Field Stadium. These are the only two competitions separating the Lakers from the NCAA Divison II Outdoor National Championships, which are to be held between May 23 and May 25 in Pueblo, Colo. With only a few weeks remaining in the season, the trick to building quality is to keep building.

“We still have a week to produce some improvements on our season marks in hopes to get as many people qualified for the NCAA championships in three weeks,” Baltes said. “All in all we need to keep learning and growing from our experiences come back stronger next time out.”
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