GVSU’s largest field set to compete at nationals

GVL / Robert Mathews
Junior Mohamed Mohamed competing in the 4x400 relay at the 2013 GLIAC Championship

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews Junior Mohamed Mohamed competing in the 4×400 relay at the 2013 GLIAC Championship

Pete Barrows

All season long, the Grand Valley State University track and field teams have set new records. Add one more to the record books.

This year, for the first time, the program will send 40 of their student-athletes south to Birmingham, Ala. to compete in the 2013 NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field National Championship.

The entry field for the meet, which will be held March 8-9, was expanded this year by 70 slots, but GVSU will have its largest and quite possibly most balanced representation in the program’s history and that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

“We’ve got a lot of good kids in,” said GVSU head track and field coach Jerry Baltes. “I’m confident in the kids we have toeing the line, getting on the runways and in the circles. Now the objective is to go down there and score as many points as possible. We just need to go down there and compete and if we do that, good things can happen.”

The men’s side will send 14 total entries and 19 student-athletes, including seniors Matt Armstrong (shot put), Donnie Stiffler (weight throw), Raphael Gelo (pole vault) and Kevin Leland (pole vault), juniors Bret Myers (pole vault) and Tendo Lukwago (triple jump), sophomores Trent Chappell (high jump) and Lee VanKampen (weight throw), freshmen Ethan Barnes (800-meter), Blake Donson (weight throw) and Darien Thornton (shot put/weight throw), as well as two relay teams – the distance medley relay team consisting of freshmen Nick Wharry and Daniel Pung, junior Jeremy Wilk and senior Larry Julson, and the record breaking 4×400 all-junior squad of Nathaniel Hammersmith, Chris Teitsma, Logan Hoffman and Mohammed Mohamed.

The women have 23 entries of their own and will send 21 athletes. Seniors Sam Lockhart (shot put/weight throw), Jamie Smith (weight throw) and Monica Kinney (mile), juniors Kalena Franklin (60-meter hurdles), Kristen Hixson (pole vault), Lisa Galasso (800-meter), Courtney Brewis (5,000-meter), Madie Rodts (3,000-meter), Molly Slavens (5,000-meter) and Alisha Weaver (high jump), sophomores Brittney Banister (60-meter dash), Michaela Lewis (60-meter dash), Jessica Janecke (3,000/5,000-meter runs) and Jacqueline Williams (pole vault) and freshmen Alyssa Zokoe (weight throw), Katelyn Cliff (mile), Allyson Winchester (3,000/5,000-meter runs) and Allison Work (mile) all made the cut.

They will also be sending their respective DMR team of juniors Lisa Galasso and Andrea Kober and sophomores Jessica Janecke and Hannah Osborn. The 4×400 relay team comprised of juniors Andrea Kober and Kalena Franklin, sophomore Brittney Bannister and freshman Brittany Terry will also all make the trip.

The women will be tasked with defending their title as favorites and the men will compete for their first top four placing since 2008. Both units will look to continue their recent success this season.

“You got three sides of it,” said sprints, hurdles and relay coach Keith Roberts. “You got the people who go crazy and do above and beyond, you’ve got the people who do what they did to get there and you’ve got the people who fall apart. If you do what you did to get there, chances are you’re going to do well.”

If GVSU is to finish the indoor season off with a few more hits, it’ll be done as a team.

“What’s driven Grand Valley is the team and so I think to have more of us there is only going to help,” said GVSU distance coach Nick Polk. “From seeing each other compete, to cheering, to motivating each other, I think having the big team is what’s going to spark us to do something we’ve never done.”

No matter how the championships turn out or how many records they break, the focus will remain on the process.

“The way I look at it, every day I’m here to help kids get better,” Baltes said. “If that means hopefully winning a national championship, outstanding. But my primary focus and duty is to help these kids now and tomorrow and two weeks, two months, two years (to) get better. You have to focus on the day-to-day process, and if you do that good things will happen for you at some point.”
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