GVSU hosts Michigan and Michigan State in a dual meet
For one day, Grand Valley State University made Allendale the track capital of Michigan.
More than 1,170 people filled the Kelly Family Sports Center on Saturday night to see the Grand Valley State University Winter Classic, a scored track and field meet highlighted by the University of Michigan versus Michigan State University.
It was a historic evening for the Big Ten rivals, as the event marked the first-ever dual meet between the women’s teams and the first meet between the men’s programs since 1982.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase the beautiful Kelly Family Sports Center,” said Tim Nott, associate athletic director of GVSU. “Any time you can get these quality institutions under one roof, it makes for a pretty neat event.”
Spectators lined the top-level standing area just to catch a glimpse of the action, as the bleachers filled up shortly after the event’s first competition at 6 p.m.
The Winter Classic eclipsed the center’s attendance record, Nott said. “It’s a big plus for Grand Valley.”
The two schools squared off after GVSU competed in a quad meet earlier in the day against Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University and Hillsdale College.
In the nightcap, the Wolverines swept in the “Battle for the State of Michigan”, as the No. 21 women’s team defeated the No. 24 Spartans 89-73, while the men’s team took home an 88-74 victory.
Michigan senior Ethan Dennis notched a school record in the weight throw with his toss of 21.20 meters, while junior Cody Riffle’s throw of 19.25 meters in the shot put set a new standard for the program.
“This is a good situation with a good facility and a good crew,” said Fred LaPlante, head coach of the University of Michigan men’s team. “You can tell they’re professional.”
Despite losing on both sides, the Spartans did not come away empty handed. Michigan State sophomore Leah O’Conner’s time of 4 minutes, 40.41 seconds in the mile, set a school and Kelly Center record, while senior Beth Rohl notched a school record of 21.40 meters in the weight throw.
No official plans have been made to host the event again in 2014, but GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes said he would like to see the event happen again soon.
“It’s a great day for GVSU and for the sport of track and field,” Baltes said. “I’m sure we’ll evaluate how this one goes, but I anticipate more in the future.”
More than 170 student athletes in the meet were from the state of Michigan, which may have played a role in such a strong turnout. GVSU Assistant Athletic Director Walter Moore said the atmosphere in the building was reason enough for an encore.
“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to show our love for track and field,” Moore said. “It gives family and friends an opportunity to see what we’re all about at Grand Valley. I’m not sure yet about next year, but after seeing the crowd, I would like to see this again.”