GV to vie for national titles in North Carolina
Lakers to send 29 student-athletes, four relay teams
With great success comes greater expectations, and the red-hot Grand Valley State University indoor track and field program has certainly been having great success this season.
GVSU, which swept both the men’s and women’s title GLIAC Indoor Track & Field Championship for the fifth straight year on March 2, will attempt to duplicate or better its pair of fourth-place national finishes while tangling with perennial powers this weekend at the NCAA Division II National Championship at the JDL Fast Track in Winston Salem, N.C.
“Both the men’s and women’s teams have been rolling with momentum,” senior runner Jeremy Wilk said. “We have been preparing for this meet all year, and we want nothing more than to improve on how we did in last year’s national meet. That would be a huge accomplishment.”
The women’s meet, on paper, figures to be one of the most evenly-matched trios of top teams since the USTFCCCA rankings were first released in 2010.
No. 1 Lincoln University comes into the weekend with 189.61 points, No. 2 GVSU enters with 184.22, and close behind is third-ranked Adams State University with 172.54.
“On paper, Lincoln and Adams State have a lot of heavy hitters up front,” GVSU coach Jerry Baltes said. “It’s probably going to take between 50 and 60 points to win this thing.
“A big part of that is going to come down to the middle ground, between the ninth and 15th places. If you can pick up some of those spots, then you have a good shot at it.”
GVSU will send 17 athletes individually to go with a pair of relays, and it will be among one of the favorites to contend for a national title with 10 athletes currently ranked in the top 10 of their events.
It all starts with a pair of seniors.
Kristen Hixson, who owns the top vault ranking in the nation, figures to battle it out for the national crown along with sprinter Kalena Franklin, who is the third-ranked competitor in the 60-meter hurdles.
“Franklin has great competition in her events; it’s going to be a battle in both the 200- and 60-meter hurdles,” Baltes said. “Anything can happen in any given event. You can’t think about your seeding when it comes down to competition.”
On the men’s side, the No. 4 Lakers will dispatch two relays and 14 athletes, nine of whom are ranked in the top 10 of their respective events.
Multiple point opportunities will present themselves in the weight throw — which features third-ranked sophomore Darien Thornton and ninth-seeded classmate Blake Donson — and the 800-meter run with third-ranked sophomore Ethan Barnes and sixth-seeded senior Jeremy Wilk.
Barnes said getting points in the 800-meter could be key.
“It’s up to me and (Jeremy) to get after it,” he said. “We are both confident that we can get through preliminaries and into the finals.”
The NCAA Division II Championship will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.