Team assesses strengths, season goals in early meets

Joe Maher-Edgin

After its Early Bird meet on Dec. 2 and with Friday’s upcoming GVSU Holiday Open, the Grand Valley State University men’s track and field team will use these early-season meets to assess team strengths and season goals.

Among GVSU’s fielders is Daniel Vanek, who will return for another season with the Lakers after placing second in shotput at last year’s NCAA Division II National Championships and winning the outdoor National Championship.

Vanek hails from Dolna Streda, Slovakia, and is part of a mutually beneficial agreement with the university which enables him to compete for the Lakers while training for possible Olympic contention for his country.

Teammate Donny Stiffler, a junior, said Volnek will be back after winter break.

“We’ll be looking for (Volnek) to do big things for us,” Stiffler said. “We have a new coach this year, but the coach last year, Cory Young, heard of (Volnek) and called him up, offering him a place to train. (Volnek) was excited to come here and start throwing and he came in and won the National Championship.”

Head coach Jerry Baltes said Volnek is part of a really balanced team.

“We take pride in being pretty balanced in distance running, but I think all of our event areas will contribute towards the conference championship,” Baltes said.

Senior sprinter Xavier Parnell said the team is not only deeper, but also a younger team than in previous years.

“This year we’re a lot deeper in the shorter and longer sprints and we’re a lot younger which will help down the road when injuries become a problem,” Parnell said. “The talent is going in the right direction. We’re in the process of transitioning the seniors out and bringing in the new, younger talent.”

The upcoming Holiday Open meet will be used to formulate season goals for the team and determine an attack plan for the conference championship.

“We have to sit down as a team after the holiday break and they’ll sort of map things out, but we always want to compete for the conference championship and get as many people to the national championships,” Baltes said of the team’s season goals.

He said there is plenty to watch for this season within his team.

“We got a lot of guys across the board that are really strong: Tyler Emmorey and Anthony Witt in the distance events, we have a red-shirt freshman in the high jump, Craig Chapel is among three or four pole vaulters that could do really well,” Baltes said. “We have a handful of people that will be exciting.”

The GVSU Holiday Open will take place on Friday at 3 p.m. inside the Kelly Family Sports Center.

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