GV cross country, track and field programs named 2022 DII Program of the Year


GVL / Lauren Seymour

Brian Bloom, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University’s men’s and women’s cross country and track teams received the 2022 U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division II Program of the Year award.

As one of the most prestigious awards a school can receive in these sports, the purpose of the award is to recognize programs in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I-III with the highest amount of success through cross country and indoor/outdoor track and field. 

GVSU is just the second school in the history of the award to have both men’s and women’s programs receive the award.

“We take pride in being represented at the national championships,” head coach Jerry Baltes said. “(Winning this award) shows that our coaches recruit high level athletes that work hard all year long to be successful at the national championship meets. Everyone did well this year.”

The men’s team has now captured their third consecutive Program of the Year award after winning the 2021 NCAA Cross Country National Championship, the 2022 NCAA Indoor Track National Championship and placing third at the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship. 

Men’s thrower Hunter Harding said that this year’s team and the season was very special.

“Our overall belief in having a championship culture made this team special,” Harding said. “It started with the COVID-19 year. The team was able to lock in and that really allowed us to focus on winning the championships.”

Harding added that winning this award while being a part of the team is a great achievement.

“I didn’t win many track meets in high school,” Harding said. “To win at GVSU, to have success as a team, an individual and as a program is amazing. To see our goals as a team come into fruition is just really special.”

As for the women’s team, they collected their eighth award in the program’s history. The women’s success in the year was recognized through this award as they placed second in all three NCAA National Championships. 

Elli Kimes, a pole vaulter for the team, said winning the award was a storybook ending to the season.

“Every season is special, we performed well all season long,” Kimes said. “This season reflected how special the team was in cross country and track, coming out of the COVID-19 year our program showed perseverance and grit.”

Though the team fell short of a national championship this year, Kimes was named an individual national champion in the pole vault.

“(It was) overwhelming,” Kimes said. “I’m so blessed to be a part of a program and a school that cares so much about our team and the athletes. It’s a culmination of hard work, grit, the coaches’ support, the school support, the trainers coming day in and day out to help; it was a team oriented victory.”

For the entirety of the season Baltes preached preparation and staying focused on winning the national championship.

He said it was no different when it came to winning this award while making note of the factors that led into the year’s success.

“Preparation, staying focused, trusting in the plan and being willing to work,” Baltes said. “The athletes were buying in mentally to what we were trying to do and controlling what they could control.”

Throughout the course of his coaching career, Baltes has accrued a plethora of Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) championships, national championships, and also has many Program of the Year awards. Baltes said winning the award on both the men’s and women’s side is an incredible feeling.

“(Winning both awards) puts the cherry on top of an incredible year,” Baltes said. “We won cross country championships and track championships, and it’s a culmination of the fact that our athletes did incredible in every season of the year.”

The men’s and women’s 2022 cross country teams’ quest to once again achieve dominance begins Saturday, Sept. 10 at 10:45 a.m. at the Calvin College Knight Invite.