GVSU Tune-Up Meet honors senior class and prepares team for championship season

Track and field students. Track and field meet. Kelly Field house. Friday, 2/8/19. Athletic training. GVL / Ben Hunt

Track and field students. Track and field meet. Kelly Field house. Friday, 2/8/19. Athletic training. GVL / Ben Hunt

Jerod Fattal

The 28 seniors of the men’s and women’s track and field teams competed for the last time inside the Kelly Family Sports Center on Friday, Feb. 16 in the GVSU Tune-Up Meet. 

During their four years repping Laker blue, the heralded senior class earned 32 All-American honors, 61 GLIAC Championships, eight NCAA Regional Championships, three individual and team national titles, and more than 100 academic awards. 

“This senior class brought a wide variety of student athletes,” said head coach Jerry Baltes.  “Who brought positive results both on the track and as leaders, mentors, and teammates (off the track).”  

With the GLIAC Championships at SVSU only one week away, both the men’s and women’s teams took Friday as an opportunity to rest some of their athletes, including hurdler Tiara Wiggins and sprinter Angelica Floyd on the women’s side. Distance runner Zach Panning and sprinter Jordan Johnson also rested on the men’s team, allowing an opportunity for the remainder of the team to step up. 

“We focused on training this week,” Baltes said. “We didn’t want to waste a race effort this week, when we are going to need great races next week. We had a lot of young kids who were fighting it out with each other to earn one of the final GLIAC (championship) spots.”

The meet kicked off for the women’s team in the 60m hurdles, with Jessica Gustad taking second place, followed by a first-place finish by Kelani Benson in the 60m dash.

Later in the meet, Tanya Kimbrough earned a bronze medal in the 200m dash, circling the track in 25.97 seconds. Cassidy Terhorst and Abbey Clasen rounded out the sprinting events, finishing in first and third despite only being separated by .09 seconds in the 400m dash. 

Despite resting a good portion of their distance crew, the team still had four athletes make it to the podium in the distance events, starting with Sarah Rustmann in the 800m dash, who earned a silver medal.

In the one mile, Madison Goen and Rachel Webb finished the race in 5:01.89 and 5:04.93 seconds, winning silver and bronze medals in the process. The only first-place finish in the distance events came from Holly McKinney in the 3000m, finishing in 10:22.77 seconds. 

In the field events, Alexis Duncan (5.83m) and Tabor Gleason (4.03m) finished first in the long and high jumps. The jumping events finished their strong showing in the triple jump, where Anna Obi and Alex Reeves jumped 11.56 and 11.34m, earning first and second place.

The throwing events proved once again to be a strong point for this team with Erika Lechner and Emma Richards taking first and second place in shot put, with throws of 13.57 and 13.38m. The only sweep of the day came in the weight throw, where Judith Essemiah (18.04m) and Franesh Robinson-Mitche (17.22m) took second and third. The strongest performance came from Bobbie Goodwin, who threw a career-best 19.54m, earning first place. 

“It doesn’t do much good to perform your best at the first meet of the year,” Baltes said. “It’s good to see her coming around at this point in the season.” 

Milton Toliver finished the day strong for the men’s team on the track with second-place finish in the 200m, circling the track in 22.52 seconds. 

Operating at full strength, the throws department put on a clinic in the shot put, sweeping the event with Justin Scavarda (17.34m), Brad Warman (16.07m), and Tommy Cwiok (15.68m) taking first, second and third places. 

Scavarda also placed in the weight throw, along with Hunter Harding with throws of 19.11 and and 18.80m, earning second and third. The only other sweep of the day came in pole vault, where vaulters Marcus Lubbers (4.73m), Andrew Koenigsknecht (4.63m) and Michael Martin (4.63) took first through third. 

In the jumping events, Kyle Sawyer, Mac Mitchell and Ryan Mount all took home silver medals in the long, triple and high jumps with leaps of 6.76m, 13.53m and 1.98m. The strongest jump of the day came from Hunter Weeks, who jumped a career best in the high jump (1.98m) and finished first. 

“He’s been struggling a little bit lately,” Baltes said. “So it was great to see him get back to where he knew and we knew he could be at.”

The Lakers now have their sights are set on winning the GLIAC Championship. 

“We go to compete to win,” Baltes said. “We want to keep the titles going.”

The men’s and women’s teams will challenge for the GLIAC crown next week on Saturday, Feb. 23, and Sunday, Feb. 24 at the Conference Championships, hosted by SVSU.