Baltes, national champs seek 3-peat in '14
GVSU begins season at Spartan Invitational on Sept. 12
It may not be the most celebrated team in the landscape of Grand Valley State University Athletics, but, since 2010, it has celebrated the most success at the NCAA Division II level.
The GVSU women’s cross country team, which has won 13 straight GLIAC and Division II Midwest Regional titles, will have high expectations to live up to this fall after claiming back-to-back national championships in 2012 and 2013.
The 2013 USTFCCCA Division II Women's National Coach of the Year, GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes, said the winning formula remains the same: Build team chemistry off the field and translate it into championships on the field.
“We have used the same approach year after year,” Baltes said. “We rely on each other every day in practice and it results in our athletes running in packs during meets. No individual athlete is stronger than a group of teammates who constantly push one another to compete to their fullest potential.
"I believe that’s where our success originates from.”
Duplicating such success for a third straight season will be a tall task, but the 2014 squad certainly appears to have all the pieces in place to claim its fourth national title in five years.
Seniors Allyson Winchester and Hannah Osborn will lead the pack, as will junior Jessica Janecke and sophomore Kendra Foley. All four runners earned USTFCCCA All-America plaudits by finishing in the top-40 at nationals last November in Spokane, Wash.
The team also brings back a pair of top-50 finishers from that race in junior Jordan Chester and senior Madie Rodts.
“We definitely have the potential to stay atop of the cross country ranks in Division II,” Rodts said. “As long as we can stay healthy throughout the season and we each do our part to further the team, then I don’t think there is much that can hold us back from reaching our goals.”
A flock of newcomers and redshirt freshmen will also be eager to contribute. Sarah Cullip, Jenna Klynstra and Brianna King are a few names to keep an eye on.
“We have a great amount of potential in our freshman class this year,” Baltes said. “The amount of depth we have in that class is assuring to know that anyone can step up at any given moment.”
For a team that has experienced as much success as GVSU has in the past four years, it’s hard to imagine its expectations will be anything less than a 14th straight GLIAC title and a third straight national crown.
“We understand that with success comes the expectations,” Chester said. “Not only does the success that we accumulate positively impact our cross country program, but it also goes a long way in gaining success for the university and its overall goal of achieving yet another Director’s Cup.”
The team's cross country campaign begins Sept. 12 in East Lansing, Mich. at the Spartan Invitational. The season will likely conclude at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky. – where the Lakers claimed their first national championship in 2010 – and if history repeats itself, GVSU could be ending its season in celebratory fashion once again.