Track and field teams’ throws crew boasts strength in numbers

GVL / Robert Mathews
Junior thrower Sam Lockhart

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews Junior thrower Sam Lockhart

Zach Sepanik

The throws crew is a group that might get overlooked when it comes to Grand Valley State University men’s and women’s track and field, but their accomplishments this season are far too great and numerous for anyone to bypass.

“They just keep riding the wave,” said GVSU men’s and women’s head coach Jerry Baltes. “Every week it seems like someone else is stepping up and doing something really positive.”

The women’s side is comprised of senior Lauren Buresh, juniors Katelyn Fox, Sam Lockhart, Liz Murphy and Jamie Smith, sophomore Alyssa Zokoe and freshman Laura Schroeder.

Lockhart and Murphy have climbed to No. 1 and 3 on the national list for the weight throw, respectively.

“It started in fall conditioning,” Lockhart said. “Everyone worked hard to get in shape. A lot of what we do deals with getting stronger and doing little things outside of practice to become better, even drills.”

Meanwhile, the men’s squad features seniors Daniel Vanek and Matt Armstrong, juniors Andrew Gorley and Donny Stiffler, sophomore Nathan Dekam, freshmen Jay Lechner and Blake Donson and redshirt freshman Lee VanKampen.

Stiffler, ranked No. 9 in the shot put, looks to Vanek, the reigning Division II National Champion in the same event, to continue to improve.

“We don’t just have a good shot putter or a good weight thrower,” Stiffler said. “We have multiple, so even in practice you are throwing against some of the best competition in Division II. The strength of the GLIAC and throws is amazing. Every single track meet we go to seems like a national competition for us.”

And while these are the athletes who have had great success, they are led by first-year GVSU men’s and women’s assistant coach, Blaine Maag, also the head throws coach.

“I took over for Cory Young who is now at the University of Kentucky,” Maag said. “I came in with a different scheme than what they were used to and they seem to have handled it pretty well so far.”

In his five seasons at GVSU, Young’s throwers made a splash on the national scene, totaling 33 All-America honors and four national champions. With his program, Maag hopes to build on the deep-rooted Laker tradition that Young left behind.

“I have a little different philosophy when it comes to the weight room,” Maag said. “I trained at Ashland University in Ohio for five years with four-time Olympian Jud Logan. He got me familiar with how to make an athlete more than an athlete.”

Although a new program, the goal of making it to the national meet remains the same. With the possibility of eight total athletes from the throws squad qualifying for a trip to Minnesota for the Indoor Track and Field National Championships on March 9 and 10, the focus is on improving from week-to-week.

“We are not trying to break any records. We are not trying to be No. 1 in the nation, but we are,” Maag said. “They are fortunate enough because they have put so much time and effort into it and it makes it a lot easier for them in the long run. We like to make a step each week closer and closer to our main goal.”

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