GV cross country competes in Live at Lou Classic with Issac Harding taking gold


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Brian Bloom, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University cross country men’s and women’s teams competed at the Live at Lou XC Classic at “Tom” Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 2. The men’s team placed second in the 8k with 67 points, trailing only Wisconsin. The women’s team finished in sixth overall in the 5k race with 217 points.

“I was impressed by the way the men’s team stayed composed,” said coach Jerry Baltes. “Wisconsin is ranked very high, so it is very easy to get wide-eyed and lose focus, but we stayed consistent with them.”

At the end of the men’s 8k race, the team yielded two top 10 finishes. Senior Isaac Harding won the race with a time of 23:16.7, while junior Tanner Chada was not far behind, placing fourth with a time of 23:23.7.

“We have a very good men’s team this year; we’re one of the best in Division II,” Harding said. “The team is motivated to win a title this year; our motivation also comes from not being able to run last year. Having the opportunity to win Nationals is a big motivation.” 

Harding has been a leader on the men’s team, competing since his freshman year until now, where he has seen substantial personal improvement.

“(I’ve seen) a lot of growth physically and fitness wise, and it has helped me compete at a high level,” Harding said. “The experience I have gained has made me comfortable running at a higher level and it’s hard to race competitively without experience.”

When the women’s 5k race was over, the team saw three runners finish in the top 50 on the leaderboards. Junior Hannah Roeske was the first to finish on the team as she placed 21st with a time of 17:06.9, while sophomore Claudia O’Malley and freshman Taryn Chapko joined her.

“The women’s race was very deep; there were lots of bodies so it can get hectic and daunting,” Baltes said. “I was impressed by how they stayed composed and competed.”

Sophomore Natalie Graber, who finished fifth out of the GVSU runners and 57th overall, says that this season is very different from past seasons. 

“(We are) less experienced than we’ve been in past years,” Graber said. “We had to deal with COVID last year. We have a lot of young talent who do not have the experience of running these high level races. Come November, we should be able to compete very well (at Nationals).”

The teams had their starting rosters available and running for this meet, and Graber says they continue to show improvement.

“During our first race, we were very nervous; most of us hadn’t raced in two years,” Graber said. “We continue to get better as a team each meet and that brings better results. Hopefully we can beat better teams down the road.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams have steamrolled their way to the top of the Division II cross country rankings, maintaining the No. 1 spot in the GLIAC polls. 

“(I tell them) not to focus on the rankings,” Baltes said. “We just need to execute race plans and they need to control what they can control. I tell them to run to the best of their abilities not only for themselves, but for the team. We need to stay focused, stay the course. (This meet) was great for the program, but we need to get back at it and keep our focus.” 

The cross country team will defend their perch in Romeoville, Illinois to compete at Lewis University on Saturday, Oct. 9.