GVSU “tunes up” for GLIACS
After an early Friday night finish at the 2013 GVSU Tune-Up, Jerry Baltes, Grand Valley State University’s head track and field coach, gathered his team together.
“Next Saturday, Sunday, a good portion of you will be competing,” Baltes said. “A good portion of you will not be competing. Fifth year seniors, seniors, this is your last go-around for some of you. Freshman, you’re thinking this is my first time I’ve got four more left – it goes fast, don’t take it for granted.”
For many of the 23 seniors on the team, this was the last competitive meet they’ll run as Laker indoor track athletes. The 2013 senior group featured eight student-athletes who have earned 34 All-American decorations, won 11 GLIAC track and field championships between the men and women, and claimed four individual track national championships.
“They’ve all been a huge part in helping our kids take it to that next level,” said GVSU sprints, hurdles and relay coach Keith Roberts. “Bringing a great attitude to practice and meets.
Just demonstrating what Grand Valley’s all about, and that’s being great people and great athletes. I felt like they carried that with them. This is a hard sport. To do this day in and day out for four or five years is a grind and they made it through it.”
GVSU’s track and field success can be traced back to older classes. The seniors have always set a precedent for the underclassman to follow.”
“Those groups set the standard for everybody else,” said GVSU distance coach Nick Polk. “That’s why we’ve been so successful. The older group always sets the standard for the young people. All-Americans don’t become commonplace, but it’s an expectation for everybody. I think that’s what that group did – learn from the kids before them and pass it on.”
For Baltes, it’s never easy to see a class leave that has made such a positive impact on the program.
“All of our classes over the years have done awesome stuff,” Baltes said. “You hate to think about losing those good kids, but part of a great program is tradition and people stepping up, filling those shoes. We’re very thankful for everything those kids have done for us over the last four years. Of course, we’re not done yet, still got more work to do.”
During the Tune-Up, the GVSU women hit 11 more qualifying marks and won eight events, including several sweeps. The men brought in nine provisional marks of their own and broke two more school records in the process, bringing the season total to five, two of which have been broken multiple times this year.
Junior Tendo Lukwago bested his mark in the triple jump for the second straight week with a leap of 14.79 meters to win the event. Freshman Darien Thornton, who has surpassed expectations all season, out tossed Grand Valley hall of fame athlete Jason VanElst’s 11-year-old weight throw record with a mark of 20.15 meters.
This week, the GVSU Indoor track and field team will devote itself entirely towards preparing for the GLIAC Indoor Track and Field Championships that will be hosted inside the Kelly Family Center on Feb. 23 and 24, beginning at 10 a.m. The women’s team, No. 1 from start to finish, is in good position. The men’s team still has a score to settle with No. 2 Ashland University.
“We match up with them (Ashland) very well and it’s going to be who has the guts,” Polk said. “Who can squeak out that point and beat out that next jersey in front of them?”
“It was Ashland that beat us (in 2008) and that’s who can beat us again – and it might be one or two points,” Polk said. “That’s what I always try to tell them is you always have to run through the line, you always have to give out your full effort or they’re going to beat us if you don’t.”
Only those that have made provisional times this season will participate in this weekend’s events, but it will take the entire team to accomplish this season’s remaining goals.
Baltes made this clear as he wrapped up his post-meet speech.
“We need you to be on board with what we’re trying to accomplish just as much as those crawling into the blocks, toeing the line and giving it all down the runway,” Baltes said “We need everyone on board.”