Men’s track and field team brings home NCAA National Championship


GVL / Lauren Seymour

Brian Bloom, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University men’s and women’s track and field teams traveled to Pittsburg, Kansas to compete in the NCAA Indoor Track National Championships March 11-12. The men’s team won their first indoor title in school history, scoring 66 total points — 17 more points than every other team.

“It feels good to check off the final box,” coach Jerry Baltes said. “I’m happy for both the athletes and the staff. The men have now won three straight national championships dating back to before COVID-19, so I’m thrilled for them.”

The women’s team fell just short of being named champions, as they placed second with 51 points, just seven points behind Minnesota State University. 

“(The women’s team) competed at a very high level, just came up a little short,” Baltes said. “I’m proud of how they pushed through and competed hard.”

In terms of individual performances, both teams fielded a plethora of top five finishes in the country, two of which had their efforts awarded with individual championships. On the men’s side, freshman Brandon Miller captured a national championship in the 200m with a time of 21.02, in the mile, freshman Caleb Futter finished third in the country, running a time of 4:08.99, in the 3000m and senior Isaac Harding and junior Tanner Chada finished second and third with times of 7:57.64 and 8:00.15. Harding added a third place finish in the 5000m, crossing the finish line with a time of 13:47.67.

“(I feel) a little disappointed; winning was the goal,” Harding said. “I did good, not great. I didn’t have good finishing or turnover, but I scored points for the team. I’m a bit disappointed, but content with finishing in the top three.”

As for the field events, freshmen Eli Kosiba and Jonathan Rankins-James placed second and fifth in the high jump with jumps of 2.14m and 2.11m. In the shot put, freshman Myles Kerner placed fifth, throwing a distance of 18.23m and in the weight throw, senior Hunter Harding had a career day, finishing fourth and throwing a personal best 20.47m.

“I felt overwhelmed and excited, Harding said. “It felt like it finally clicked; it was beautiful to watch that happen. I came in as a preferred walk-on and spent a lot of time with the upperclassmen. Failure prepared me for this; getting a PR at the national championship was amazing.” 

On the women’s side, sophomore Klaudia O’Malley placed second in the mile, running a time of 4:55.17. In the 800m, freshman Taryn Chapko finished with a time of 2:07.81, good for fifth place. Finally, senior Jessica Gockley finished fourth in the 3000m, crossing the finish line with a time of 9:22.37.

The women’s team saw even greater success in the field events. In the weight throw, junior Judith Essemiah could not be beaten, as she won the championship with a throw of 20.45m. Joining her in the top five in the weight throw was freshman Alaina Omonode, who placed fourth with a throw of 19.84m. In the shot put, junior Emma Richards placed fourth, recording a distance of 15.24m and in the pole vault, senior Ellianne Kimes placed second with a jump of 4.15m.

“This was a total team effort from start to finish,” Baltes said. “All the athletes and coaches came prepared and competed at a high level. We had a lot of big time performances that propelled us to do well.”

The indoor track season may have come to a conclusion, but Baltes says the momentum will carry over into the outdoor season. 

“We’re definitely going to take some time and enjoy (the national championship win),” Baltes said. “There’s three seasons, we just need to get ready for the next one. We’ll be very, very good; we have a lot of talented individuals and different events coming up in the outdoor season.”

After a month long hiatus from the track, the teams will return to compete for an outdoor championship as they host the Al Owens Classic on Apr. 12.