Lakers prepare for challenges at track and field Indoor National Championships

GVL / Archive
Bob Eubanks Open Indoor Track Meet

GVL Archives

GVL / Archive Bob Eubanks Open Indoor Track Meet

Zach Sepanik

The National Championships come but once a year in sports, except track and field, where two opportunities to compete against the best occur with the indoor and outdoor varieties. The Grand Valley State University men’s and women’s teams will head to Mankato, Minn., on March 9 and 10 to contend for their first opportunity, the NCAA Division II Indoor National Championships.

“I would say on the men’s side if we could crack the top 10 that would be pretty nice,” said GVSU men’s and women’s head coach Jerry Baltes. “On the women’s side, I’m not going to sit here and lie and say we are not focused on winning a championship. We most definitely are. We are going to make the most of the opportunity.”

The Laker women, ranked No. 1 in the country, are the reigning Division II champions. They were also runners-up in 2009 and 2010 to Lincoln University in Missouri, currently No. 4 in the nation, a team that should pose a threat to the Laker’s championship hopes.

“We are still doing the little things to stay in the best shape and we are still wanting more,” said junior thrower Sam Lockhart, who qualified to compete in the shot put and weight throw. “The GLIAC Championships really set us up for the national championships really well because a lot of the competition we saw will be at nationals. I think we are expected to win, but at the same time that doesn’t mean just showing up.”

Other teams that will provide tough competition for the ladies include No. 2 Adams State University and No. 3 Grand
Canyon University.

“The national championships are a combination of having front-end talent and then you have to have depth,” Baltes

Beside Lockhart, GVSU will be sending the following athletes to defend their title: sophomore Kalena Franklin in the 60-meter hurdles; senior Chanelle Caldwell in the 800-meter run; seniors Betsy Graney and Karie McDonald, and juniors Ashley Botham and Julia Nowak in the one-mile run; Graney and fellow senior Rachel Patterson in the 5,000-meter run; the 4×400-meter relay team of Caldwell, Franklin, sophomore Leiah Hess, and freshman Brittney Banister; the distance medley team of Graney, Hess, Caldwell and Botham; senior Jocelyn Kuksa and sophomore Kristen Hixson in the pole vault; senior Lauren Buresh in the shot put; and juniors Liz Murphy and Jamie Smith in the weight throw.

“We are just focusing on ourselves and doing everything we can to prepare mentally and physically to be ready to go,” Baltes said. “We can’t worry about the competition. We just have to be ready to compete at a high level and stay focused on what we can control.”

While the goal for the men at the beginning of the year was to get on the podium at the Indoor National Championships, the objective is now a bit different.

“We are going to focus on each individual and hopefully bring home a few more All-Americans than we did last year and move up the team rankings,” Baltes said. “There are some really good teams on the men’s side and I don’t know if we are quite ready to make the podium this year.”

The men, ranked No. 14 in the country, will be sending six athletes to help improve on the their finish from last year, including: senior Anthony Witt and Tyler Emmorey in the 5,000-meter run; freshman Trent Chappell in the high jump;
sophomore Bret Myers in the pole vault and senior Daniel Vanek and junior Donny Stiffler in the shot put.

“Coming in as a freshman, my dream was to have this opportunity to go to the national championships,” said Witt, who will be making his first trip to the big stage. “I have been close and having missed it a couple times, to finally get the opportunity to go and represent GV on the national scene means a lot. I have been working hard for four years and it is a culmination of many years of work.”

Grand Canyon, Adams State and Southern Connecticut University, ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 in Division II, respectively, are the favorites on the men’s side.

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