Cross country teams bring home GLIAC championships
'Step one' on road to nationals
Grand Valley State University’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams each took first place at the GLIAC Championships at Hillsdale College during the weekend. The victories mark the 10th year in a row the women’s team has taken first place and the ninth year in a row for the men’s team.
“We always go into it very confidently,” said junior Sara Parks, who was the first GVSU woman in for the open race. “There’s always a chance you can be surprised, but we expect to come away with the title.”
Both teams reached their victories with substantial leads. The men’s team ran an 8k race and scored 15, the best possible score, by having runners finish in the top five positions. They were followed at a distance by Ashland University, who scored 98. The women’s team ran a 6k race and ended with 18 points, besting second-place Ferris State University who scored 83.
This year, the teams were divided at the GLIAC Championships for the first time. An adjustment to the competition rules was recently made that separated the top 10 runners on each team and placed them in the varsity race.
Meanwhile, the rest of the runners from participating schools, both men and women, took part in an open race after the completion of the two varsity races. The final scores resulted from the varsity competitions only.
While head coach Jerry Baltes previously voted against dividing the races, he said the changes benefited the Lakers in the end.
“I thought it’d be easier to have one race,” Baltes said. “But in the end, it sort of helped our varsity crew to know we had got people in our open race that would’ve loved to be in their shoes, so they’ve got a responsibility to compete at a high level.”
Women’s Conference Champion Megan Maceratini said the teams controlled their races from early on.
“When we saw the boys go out, they had a very big pack in the front,” Maceratini said. “It was very cool to see all of our guys together. You could just tell that Grand Valley had control from the very beginning. I imagine we looked the same way.”
Maceratini said individually, the GVSU runners were strong.
“In terms of individual times, we all finish very close together,” she added. “I feel like each individual runner is capable of being our top scorer.”
The men’s Conference Champion, senior runner Anthony Witt, agreed.
“The ability to move people up if a couple of us are having an off day and still finish with a perfect score makes us stronger,” he said.
Both lead scorers said the common element of team unity is largely a result of coaching technique by Baltes and associate head coach Joe Lynn, who manage both teams.
Baltes called this weekend’s victory “step one” of a three-step process on the road to the “the ultimate goal” of a National Championship. Step two is the NCAA Regionals.
“We realize the true test is in Louisville,” Witt said. “Yeah, what we did (Saturday) was great. But we have to forget about it temporarily so we can really go at it at (regionals).”
Parks said those who were not in the varsity conference race still made the best of the open races.
“There wasn’t very much competition among the open race,” she said. “We were pretty much racing against our own teams. But it was still fun – we made it competitive within our own team, even though we weren’t scoring.”
In addition to their on-the-course unity, Witt said the men’s team functions as a “brotherhood” outside of practice as well.
The women’s team shares a much similar bond, Parks said.
“We’re pretty much one giant family,” he said. “We all look after each other. We try to keep each other in line and hold each other responsible. I think that really helps us on the course, because we realize we’re running for our brothers.”
The NCAA Regionals will be held in Louisville, Ken. on Nov. 20.