GVSU Track & Field head coach Jerry Baltes honored as USTFCCCA’s Women’s Coach of the Year

Jerry Baltes
GVL/Kevin Sielaff

Jerry Baltes GVL/Kevin Sielaff

Holly Bihlman, Staff Writer

After a tough few weeks for all of Grand Valley State University’s student athletes, the head coach of the women’s track and field team, Jerry Baltes, was honored as the Coach of the Year for the 16th time in his career. Despite the heartbreaking turn of events at the Indoor National Championship, the women’s team was ranked No. 1 in the division for each week of the competition and headed for the first place title before the meet was cancelled due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Baltes’ 21st year of coaching both cross country and track and field at Grand Valley, they have also been named GLIAC Coaching Staff of the Year for the 63rd time in his career. His impressive records can only be accounted for with the help of his staff and the people at Grand Valley that work so hard for the student athletes, as well as the dedication and passion the athletes have for the sport.

This year, 22 women qualified for the D2 nationals with a few of them breaking records throughout the season. Six records, to be exact, were broken by Nicole Sreenan (60m, 200m, 400m), Allie Ludge (mile, 3000m) and Anna Obi (triple jump) during this season, leaving an outstanding mark on the history of the women’s team. 

 “I’ve been fortunate to have positive people around me,” Baltes said. “First and foremost the student athletes who accomplish the actual performances, and then our assistant coaches who work so very, very hard for out student athletes all year round and on a day to day basis, and all the support staff. I sort of see this award as a tribute to our total program, if it was just me there’s no way I would accomplish that and we wouldn’t have the success we have.” 

With the sudden end of the season and cancellation of the GLIAC Nationals meet, Baltes has been focused on helping the student athletes in any way possible to get through this transition. The devastating turnout in Birmingham, Alabama four weeks ago left all athletes, especially seniors, heartbroken, but the support of the coaching staff and coach Baltes brought them together as a team to cope with the news. 

 “Just seeing the sadness and frustration because it just happened so suddenly, you’re not prepared to deal with being told the national championships are canceled,” Baltes said. “To have that ripped away from the kids so quickly, you don’t know what to say or how to help them so you just try to be there for them and spin the positive.” 

Amidst all of the trials and tribulations, not only athletes, but people all over the world have been challenged with these past couple of weeks, focusing on the future and keeping a sharp mindset through all of it is important. Baltes is keeping his mind preoccupied with helping his athletes and maintaining a positive attitude despite the situation. Heading into his 22nd year coaching for Grand Valley, Baltes reflects on his motivation to succeed and his passion for the job. 

 “Passion for the student athletes and being around them keeps me somewhat young,” Baltes said. “Being around athletics, some people say it’s not a job, it’s a privilege to do what we do. And I’m just competitive, so I like to see how good we can get and challenge our student athletes and staff to make sure were reaching our full potential and not settling, so just to come back and try to do it again, and try to do it a little bit better than last time.”