If numbers mean anything, it is going to a grand time in Pueblo this week at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championship.
Grand Valley State, the 2011 and 2012 indoor champions and defending outdoor champion on the women’s side, will be well represented at CSU-Pueblo’s ThunderBowl. It has 17 entrants on the men’s side — the most of any team and its women lead all squads with 20 entrants.
For GVSU, it’s not just the volume of the competitors. It’s also their quality. GVSU’s Chanelle Caldwell (800-meter), Betsy Graney (3,000-meter steeplechase), Rachel Patterson (5,000-meter) all rank top five in their respected track events. While their teammates Kristen Hixson (pole vault), Lauren Buresh (shot put) and Liz Murphy (hammer throw) all are ranked in the top five in their field events. Graney (5,000-meter), Patterson (10,000-meter) and Sam Lockhart (discus) are ranked second in their events as well. .
“We are looking forward to getting going on Thursday,” Jerry Baltes, GVSU head coach said. “We have a great group of student-athletes here representing Grand Valley State University ready to compete to their full potential.”
The top men’s team is St. Augustine. It will have 14 participants in Pueblo including Josh Edmonds, the No. 1 sprinter in the 200-meter and No. 2 in the 400-meter. Also there is Christopher Copeland. Copeland, the 2012 indoor high jump champion, is currently No. 3 in that event outdoors.
The Lakers’ women’s team will have to hold off Lincoln (Mo.), the nation’s No. 2 team . The Blue Tiger women will have 19 entrants in the championships — the second-most of any team. And they are stacked.
Lincoln’s Latoya King is the nation’s No 1 in the 100 meters and No 4 in the 200 meters. Yanique Haye is also No. 1 in the 400-meter hurdles and Richards is No. 8.
King, Tamara Keane (No. 5 in the 400-meter), Toni-Ann Moore and Nickeisha Beaumont come in as the No. 1 team in the 4×100-meter relay. Keane, Hay, Dereka Kelly and Michelle Cumberbatch make up the No. 2 team in the 4×400-meter relay.
Freshman Ladonna Richards is No. 3 in the 100-meter hurdles. Teammates Anna-Kay James and Shakeisha Miller are Nos. 8 and 12 in this event.
Aside from the team competitions among one of the championships’ team title battles will be individual stories like Jeff Fraley. This Missouri Southern freshman has been lighting up the track this season and he has qualified in both the 100 meter (No. 4) and 200 meter (No. 2).
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Fraley said. “The people I’ll be going up against, I ran against them all year. I know them and have beaten them before. I just want to go out there and hope it is good enough.”
His quest to be good at something is how Fraley became a sprinter. He resisted it initially because his brother had been a high-school sprinter. So he began his high school career on the cross country team. But along the way he found out something about himself in the sport.
“I wasn’t any good at it,” Fraley said. “I ran it for two years and by my sophomore year I just wanted to be good at something. I tried sprinting and ran pretty decent. By my junior year I started getting fast. By then I knew I was going to stay with sprinting.”
By then he realized the best thing about his cross-country runs were the end of them. He was a strong finisher and sprinting seemed a reasonable event to try — except with his high school coach.
“He laughed at me initially,” Fraley said. “But after a while he saw I was fast and he kept me there. He still talks about that to me.”
People have been talking about Fraley since this Waynesville. Mo., native arrived. This season he broke the Missouri Southern record in the men’s 100-meters with a time of 10.33 seconds, a record that had stood for nearly 15 years. The old record (10.35) set by James Thrash, who went on to have a serviceable NFL career.
“I just hoped to do well this first year,” Fraley said. “I just kept getting faster and faster and faster through the year. I can’t complain. It’s been a pretty good year. If I do well [in Pueblo] it will be even better.”