Polar Vortex doesn’t stop GVSU track & field teams from success
The 2019 Polar Vortex may have shut down Grand Valley State's campus this past week, but it couldn’t stop the Grand Valley State men’s and women’s track and field teams. Split squads competed in the Hillsdale Open and Meyo Invitational Friday, Feb. 1 and Saturday, Feb. 2.
Before GVSU traveled to Hillsdale, Mich. or South Bend, Ind., the Lakers battled frigid temperatures, two feet of snow, freezing rain and a good deal of adversity for both teams.
“Mentally and emotionally it’s totally different," said head coach Jerry Baltes. "You’re not in your normal schedule and you tend to fall out of rhythm, but on the other hand, anytime you can step out of your comfort zone, that’s a good thing.”
The Meyo (Notre Dame) Invitational featured some of the toughest competition GVSU has faced all year. Numerous Division I schools such as Michigan State, Notre Dame and Iowa participated. Despite GVSU’s Division II status, the Lakers proved they could run with the bigger schools.
“They train the same way we train,” Baltes said. “We just needed to be ready to compete to the best of our ability and we would be fine.”
A couple of career bests started things off on the right foot Friday for the men’s team. In the 800M, Nick Salomon finished seventh and Dennis Mbuta finished with a personal record, finishing in 4:07.70 in the mile. On Saturday, the 4X400 relay team of Daniel Walker, Thomas Capers, Alexander Porter and Andrew McFarland finished in fifth place despite missing usual relay member (Jaylen Hasan) due to injury.
On the women’s side, Rachel Walters started things off on Saturday with a second place finish in the 800M dash, with a time of 2:06.93.
“Everyone stepped up really well and competed,” Baltes said. “(Walters) ran very well and that was really good for us to see at this point in the season.”
Walters also ran on the fifth place finishing 4x400 team with Jessica Eby, Sarah Buella and Heather Johnson. Similar to the men, the women’s team was also down a runner due to injury but still clocked in with a time of 3:46.94. Baltes was very pleased with both team’s performances in the highly-competitive environment.
“It was just the experience this group needed,” Baltes said. “We all raced well and placed well.”
The Hillsdale Wide-Track Classic included the vast majority of the GVSU track and field athletes, including sprinter Jordan Johnson, who took home a silver medal in the 200M dash, with a time of 22.10 on Friday.
The following day, Johnson also medaled in the 60M dash, where he earned a bronze with a finishing time of 6.90. In the 60M hurdles, Tyler Kirkwood finished second, crossing the line in 8.24.
On the men’s side, it was in the field events where the only gold medal of the day was claimed, as Jacob Battani finished first in pole vault, with a jump of 5.02M.
The women’s pole vault continued to be a strong point Friday, where six of the top eight finishers were Lakers, headlined by Elli Kimes (3.92M) and Kassidie Stimmel’s (3.82M) second and third place vaults.
“Our pole-vaulters had a bunch of improvements on their season and lifetime bests,” Baltes said. “They just continue to feed off of each others success and progress together.”
Saturday brought continued success to the GVSU women’s team, with three different first-place finishes. Early in the day, Anna Obi won the triple jump with a combined leap of 11.71M.
Tiara Wiggins followed with a strong performance in the 60M hurdles. She finished .06 seconds ahead of the rest of the field with a time of 8.74. Angelica Floyd culminated the Lakers’ performance by winning the 60M dash in an impressive fashion, crossing the line in 7.57 seconds.
“All three had very satisfying performances,” Baltes said. “We are definitely going to be looking to build off of them going forward.”
Following the hectic practice schedule and Saturday’s meets, both teams are looking forward to getting back into the flow of things
“This weekend's home meet is going to give us a great chance to compete against some great competition," Baltes said. "And that way we can keep progressing towards our goals.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams are back in action at the Kelly Family Sports Center Friday, Feb. 9, and Saturday, Feb. 10 for the GVSU Big Meet.