Lakers set two school records at EIU meet
Junior jumper Tendo Lukwago. GVL Archive / Robert Mathews
A change in scenery didn’t translate into warmer temperatures for the Grand Valley State University track and field teams over the weekend, but they still managed to heat up at Eastern Illinois University.
The No. 6 GVSU women and No. 9 men were impressive in their first outdoor meet of the spring campaign as they notched 23 qualifying marks, two automatic qualifying marks and two school records on Friday and Saturday at the Big Blue Classic in Charleston, Ill.
“The first night of the two-day meet was very windy and cold,” senior Jeremy Wilk said. “It wasn’t an enjoyable experience, but I think that it somewhat forced us to be mentally tough.
“This will be good for us once we finally start competing in decent weather, whenever that may be.”
Wilk and classmate Bryce Pulley teamed up with sophomores Nicholas Wharry and Ethan Barnes to win the 4×800-meter relay, an event that is rarely ran by GVSU.
The relay team clocked in with a time of 7:42.95 to erase a school record that stood since 2009.
“Going into the race, we calculated it out and determined that we each needed to run a 1:56 in order to break the record,” Wilk said. “By the time the event came along, the weather turned real nasty. We persevered and were able to come away with first place. It’s not a race that we normally compete in, but we took advantage of the opportunity.”
The other record-breaking performance came from senior Tendo Lukwago, who broke his own GVSU record in the triple jump with a first-place mark of 14.90 meters.
Lukwago then followed up that performance with another first-place finish in the long jump with a leap of 7.22 meters.
“Both of his events he competed in were outstanding performances,” jumps coach Steve Jones said. “It’s a testament to how hard he has been working as of late.
“I know he was somewhat disappointed with how he finished the indoor season. I think that has motivated him to perform to this level.”
Sophomore Darien Thornton hit the lone automatic qualifying mark for the Laker men with a hammer throw of 64.05 meters.
Senior Bret Myers also claimed a victory in the pole vault by clearing a height of 5.00 meters.
Senior Kristen Hixson got back to her winning ways on the women’s side by stealing the show in the pole vault with a first-place clear of 4.20 meters.
Hixson’s performance stands as the top mark in all of the NCAA Division II this season by 8.25 inches.
“Sometimes it can be tough on us as competitors, traveling on busses for hours at a time,” she said. “I just try to take advantage of every opportunity that I get.
“This meet being the first one of the outdoor season gives me confidence from this point forward.”
The team will split up this weekend to compete at the Hillsdale Invitational and the Hilltopper Relays in Bowling Green, Ky.