Cross country takes GLIAC Conference title and two individual first place finishes


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Brian Bloom, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to Saginaw, Michigan on Saturday, Oct. 23 for the GLIAC conference meet, where both teams dominated. The men took first place in the 8k race with 25 points, followed by Michigan Tech University with 76 points. The women also won the 6k in first place with 15 points, while runner up Saginaw Valley State University finished with 63 points. 

With difficult weather conditions on Saturday, both teams were still able to dominate the leaderboards, finishing with an exceptionally strong 50 and 48-point difference.

“(I was most impressed by) our ability to handle the elements,” said coach Jerry Baltes. “We weren’t able to see the course beforehand. It was sloppy and messy, but we were able to execute our race plans.”

On the men’s side, six runners finished in the top 10, including senior Isaac Harding, who won first in his second race of this season, posting a time of 24:35.6.

“I feel really good,” Harding said. “We executed very well as a team. It was a muddy course, we had to embrace the elements, and we came out on top. I’m definitely happy with our performance.”

Junior Tanner Chada took second, running a time of 24:38.0, freshman Caleb Futter and senior Enael Woldemichael placed fifth and sixth respectively and rounding out the top 10 was senior Jacob Lee and sophomore Andrew Hylan.

“(We prepared) really well,” Harding said. “Even since 2020 we’ve had really great training. We haven’t missed workouts and we’ve had good training in good volume. Our main focus is Nationals; we should be ready.”

In the women’s race, the leaderboards were dominated by GVSU, with the top eight spots occupied by members of the women’s team. Junior Hannah Becker won first in the race with a time of 22:04.3, followed closely by sophomore Klaudia O’Malley, who finished with a time of 22:05.5. Freshman Taryn Chapko and sophomore Kayce Rypma took third and fourth, followed by sophomore Lucy Karpukhno and freshman Emma Everhart-Deckard. Rounding out the team’s top 10 finishers were senior Morgan Fuerst and freshman Maria Mitchell, who placed seventh and eighth respectively. 

“This year (the conference meet) was different because we didn’t have it last year,” Becker said. “We were so thankful for the opportunity to be able to compete. We knew we weren’t going to run our best because of the sloppy course, but it allowed us to have fun and took the pressure off.”

The teams were unable to compete for the conference championship last year due to COVID-19, which Becker says has given them a significant amount of motivation.

“Not having last year has given us extra passion and fire to go out and compete,” Becker said. “It has also shown us not to take the opportunity to go and run for granted.”

With the exception of last season, both the men’s and women’s teams have won the GLIAC Conference every single year since 2002, where Baltes has been at the helm of every one of those teams. 

“It’s more about the athletes; they don’t want to be the team to lose the streak, they want to put their stamp on tradition,” Baltes said. “It feels good to get a championship after not being able to compete last year, but it’s special to the student-athletes.”

The team’s next race takes place on Saturday, Nov. 6 where they travel to Evansville, Indiana for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship meet.