GVSU women finish third, men fifth at indoor national championship
Fifteen Lakers earn All-American honors as outdoor season looms
GVL / Emily Frye Senior Tor'i Brooks takes on the high jump on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016.
Grand Valley State senior pole vaulter Jaime Roberts brought home an individual national championship for the track and field team, helping to earn the women’s team a trophy as well.
Roberts’ performance was the highlight from an overall strong showing from both the men’s and women’s teams. The women scored 33 points to finish third in the nation and the men scored 38.25 points to finish fifth at the Division II Indoor Track and Field National Championships in Pittsburg, Kansas from March 11-12.
“I’m very happy for the ladies,” said GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes. “You always hope to be the last ones called to the podium, but getting to the podium is great. We didn’t have enough firepower to win it, but we strung enough points together for third.”
Of the 28 student-athletes GVSU sent to the national championship meet, 23 contributed points for the Lakers and 15 left the meet with All-American honors.
“I’m proud of both teams and the way they competed,” Baltes said. “They fought hard and the guys just came up short of a trophy. Hopefully we can keep it up and push for a higher finish in outdoor.”
Roberts led the way. She cleared the bar at 4.11 meters (13 feet, 5.75 inches) to edge out Missouri Southern’s Melanie Bower and win her first national championship.
“Going into the last jump there were only two of us, and we both didn’t have any misses,” Roberts said. “After I cleared it on my second attempt Skylar (Schoen) was the first to hug me. When Melanie (Bower) didn’t make it, Skylar turned to me and said, ‘You did it, Jaime. You won.’ I am very happy that I was able to help my team out. I could hear them cheering me on from all around the track. The support I felt from them was amazing.”
Schoen didn’t score any points for the Lakers in the pole vault, but she was important to Roberts’ success.
“It was nice to have Skylar with me to help balance out the pre-meet nerves,” Roberts said. “We were able to practice on the runway Wednesday, so going into Friday we both felt confident and ready.”
Baltes had high praise for his national-champion senior.
“She was fantastic,” he said. “She did a great job competing and clearing big bars. Shout out to coach Lou (Andreadis) for his prep with the girls. He took them to another meet last weekend, to get ready for this weekend, and I think it showed.”
Bryce Bradley shined for the Lakers with a second-place finish in the men’s 5,000-meter run. He sat in fifth and sixth for almost the entire race, but as Adam State’s Sydney Gidabuday began to pull away in the final 600 meters, Bradley shot out of the pack to join him, and the two provided the crowd with a neck-and-neck finish.
“It was the highlight of the day,” Baltes said. “He ran a savvy, gritty race. He made a great push and was just outkicked in the end. Zach Panning had a great race too and got eighth place. I’m real impressed with both of them.”
Ethan Barnes and Gina Patterson each achieved third-place finishes and All-American honors. Barnes excelled in the men’s 800-meter run and Patterson had a solid showing in the women’s mile.
“Ethan was there,” Baltes said. “He passed the leader by about one quarter of an inch and then got passed at the last second. He executed a near-perfect race plan. For Gina to stick her nose in there as a freshman and compete was great.”
The Lakers also scored important points in the 60-meter hurdles. On the men’s side, Sean Wells finished fourth. On the women’s side, Beatriz Indurain ran a season-best time of 8.48 seconds to also finish fourth.
“She was lights out,” Baltes said. “It looked tied going into the final hurdle. She just got outleaned at the end.”
Tor’i Brooks shined in the heptathlon for GVSU. His total of 5,285 points was good for seventh place and an All-American honor. His point total set a new GVSU record in the event. It broke Brooks’ previous record of 5,141 points set two weeks earlier during the GLIAC championship meet.
Darien Thornton finished third in the men’s weight throw and eighth in the men’s shot put to earn All-American honors. Chris Saikalis finished third in the men’s shot put to earn All-American status. Kyra Hull finished seventh in the women’s weight throw for All-American status as well.
Also leaving the meet as All-Americans were Hunter Weeks, who finished tied for eighth in the men’s high jump, Angie Ritter, who finished seventh in the women’s 60-meter dash, Kendra Foley, who finished seventh in both the women’s 5,000 and 3,000-meter runs, and Amy Cymerman, who finished sixth in the women’s 5,000.
“Most of the crew will take three or four days off to take a deep breath and then they’ll get right back to work,” Baltes said.
For some Lakers, however, the competitions begin as early as March 17 for the outdoor season, as a few of the athletes head to Coastal Carolina University for the Alan Connie Shamrock Invitational.