GVSU cross country sets sights on national titles

Tate Baker

This Saturday, the Grand Valley State University men’s and women’s cross country teams will embark on a near 2,000-mile journey to Spokane, Wash., in hopes of taking home a pair of titles at the Division II National Championships.

“We will take off a couple days in advance so the time zone difference won’t really be an issue,” head coach Jerry Baltes said. “This week in practice, we will really focus on getting healthy and prepared, but we really won’t change anything up too much.”

Placing five runners in the top 50 of the 2012 Division II National Championship meet is what ultimately pushed the women’s cross country team to its third national championship in five years. A year later, the team is aiming to do the same with hopes of repeating as national champions.

“It’s definitely our goal to win nationals,” junior Courtney Brewis said. “We really have to focus on our preparation leading up to the race and make sure that we are mentally prepared. ”

By winning another national championship, the Lakers have a chance to emerge as the leading force in Division II cross country. Another title would mark its third in four years, previously winning in 2012 and 2010.

“Staying with the same mentality that we have had all year will really lead us in the right way,” sophomore Jessica Janecke said. “No need to change anything up, just run your race.”

Leading the Lakers will be Janecke, Brewis, and junior Allyson Winchester. All three will be hoping to ride the momentum created at regionals, where each of them saw top-10 finishes.

“It’s up to us to run to our potential—that’s going to be key,” Janecke said. “Being that it’s the biggest race of the year, we each need to put forth our best effort in order to accomplish our goals.”

The Laker men will be looking to improve on their seventh place finish from a year ago, with which neither the coaching staff nor athletes were too satisfied. The Lakers have the experience to do so as they will be racing five runners that competed in last year’s championship.

“Yeah, we weren’t really to happy with how we came out at last year’s nationals,” Baltes said. “I’m really confident with the group we have, and I know the guys are confident. I know they will be ready to go once the toe touches the line.”

Leading the Lakers will be the GLIAC Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year Brent Showerman, who is currently coming off a fifth-place finish at regionals. Junior Alan Peterson, sophomores Joe Duff and Spencer Pageau, and senior Josh Moskalewski also bring national championship experience to the Laker team.

“I think any of our guys are poised to have a breakout race. It just depends on how things turn out,” Baltes said. “We fell a little short last year. It’s going to take a collective effort to get it done.”

The Lakers will step to the line this Saturday with the women’s race starting at 1:25 p.m. followed by the men’s race at 2:25 p.m. Coverage will be available on www.NCAA.com.

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