GVSU sweeps GLIAC T&F Championships
GV / Emily Frye
At the beginning of the outdoor season, the Grand Valley State University track and field teams had two goals in mind: win both GLIAC Championships and defend their home track at the NCAA Division II National Championships.
Both GVSU teams accomplished the first task on the list, as the Lakers took home the men’s and women’s 2014 GLIAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Friday at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how both teams competed this past week,” coach Jerry Baltes said. “These kids have stayed focused throughout the season, and they are now one step closer to their ultimate goal.”
The No. 1 Laker women cruised to their 15th straight GLIAC outdoor crown by winning five individual or relay championships on Friday to finish with 185.5 points. Ashland University (120), Tiffin University (90), the University of Findlay (75.5) and Malone University (49) rounded out the top five.
Meanwhile, the No. 6 Laker men (207.5 points) outlasted Ashland (171), Tiffin (100), Hillsdale College (55.5) and Findlay (50) in the three-day event. Both GVSU teams notched 13 provisional qualifying marks on the final day to secure first place.
“It’s great to see all of our hard work come to fruition,” senior runner Jeremy Wilk said. “We had our minds set on this from day one and all of our hard work and determination finally paid off.”
Sophomore thrower Darien Thornton had an impressive performance by reaching a career-best shot put mark of 18.51 meters, the longest of his career.
The throw was good enough for second place, but it ranked as the fourth-best Division II mark this season. Thornton was named the Men’s Field Athlete of the Year.
“He has continued to progress all season; he is now being recognized as one of the best in the country for what he does,” said Baltes, who was named both the Men’s and Women’s Coach of the Year. “He had a great toss, hopefully he can carry that momentum into nationals.”
GVSU runner Bryce Bradley, the Men’s Freshman of the Year, picked up an event victory in the 5,000 meter run (14:28.13) and senior pole vaulter Bret Myers also added to the point total by clearing a first-place height of 5.05 meters.
The Laker women were fueled by a group of seniors led by standout Kalena Franklin, who came away with three conference championships overall and was tabbed as the Women’s Track Athlete of the Year.
Franklin took home the conference crown in the 200 meter dash with a GVSU-record time of 24.07 seconds, edging junior teammate and former record holder Brittney Banister who finished second (24.49 seconds).
Franklin also won the 100 meter hurdles with a mark of 13.62 seconds.
“I’m happy that this is where I’m at right now in my career at GVSU,” she said. “Anything I can do to help the team is beneficial in both ways. The award is such an honor, I can only hope to earn that accolade at the regional level as well.”
Senior Kristen Hixson set a GVSU outdoor record on Thursday in pole vault with a mark of 4.33 meters — the fourth-best mark in women’s outdoor pole vault history at the Division II level.
The Lakers also had first-place performances from senior Kayla Addison (100 meter dash), sophomore Rebecka Anderson (javelin) and junior Hannah Osborn (steeplechase).
The 4×100 meter relay team (Addison, Banister, Michaela Lewis, Carly Scott) won a conference title by finishing first in 46.98 seconds. The 4×400 squad (Banister, Franklin, Andrea Kober, Brittany Terry) finished first as well.
The Lakers will now have their sights set on the Last Chance Meets in Allendale on Friday and Saturday — their final opportunity to compete before hosting the national meet from May 22 through May 24.