BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Grand Valley State were riding high. They entered day two at the Birmingham CrossPlex in the Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championships sitting, like their women’s team -- atop the leader board.
It was a tight three point lead on Lewis, but head coach Jerry Baltes knew that it was only the beginning.Baltes had won back-to-back championships with the women’s team in 2011 and 2012, but the men’s championship has been eluding him. He was hoping they could reverse that Saturday.
“The men had a really good day,” Baltes said of the Lakers’ day one performance. “Pretty much everything we needed to have happen, happened. Of course starting today with the W in the hurdles is a big help, too. The ladies -- we had an OK day. We needed to be a little bit better yesterday to have any shot today. We’ll just go out and compete, that’s all we can do on both sides, compete and hopefully get results like Sean just did in the hurdles.
“The fact that Sean just won that [60 hurdles], our kids are pretty excited up in the stands. You can’t replace forward momentum. Hopefully that gets us going. We got two shot putters in there, Fisch in the pole vault, Barnes in the 800, Bradley in the 3K, and then the 4x4. You can’t score if you don’t have people in the events and we have that.”
The first event of the day that the Lakers had a chance to get some breathing room in was the 60 meter hurdles. Three competitors from teams in the top five in points had entrants in the race. GVSU junior Sean Wells would make sure he did his part. He would face off against GLIAC rival, Ashland’s senior Elijah Owens and TAMU-Kingville's (who sat in 4th place with 16 points before the race) sophomore Javier Lopez.
It was just another day at the office for Wells. He raced his way to the championship, beating Owens 7.78 to 7.84. He crossed the finish line and let out a vivacious roar.
“All of the hard work I put into it [in] the summer is all paying off,” Wells said after his dominating performance. “My team yesterday, every time they ran I was feeling the adrenaline coming through my veins. I wasn’t even running, I was done, but I was feeling the adrenaline. So coming in today I was ready. I already raced against Elijah Owens in my GLIAC Conference, it’s normal racing against him everyday. I knew a little bit what to expect, but still tried to stay focused on my lane, and my hard work paid off.”
GVSU would ride their lead until late in the day. Lurking behind for most of the day -- as low as 10th place at one point -- were Adams State. Whereas GVSU led a balanced attack of both track and field athletes, Adams State is heavy in the run department. They don't simply have great runners, their athletes are tops in the nation. They bided their time until their events came around.
Coming off a record-setting distance medley relay the previous evening, medley teammates Oliver Aitchison and Matt Daniels were set to square off in the men’s mile. No records would be set on this run, but the Grizzlies would make their move. Aitchison came across first by mere fractions of a second ahead of Daniels, but everyone else would be farther behind. It was nearly a 20-point swing for the Grizzlies, and waiting in the wings was one of the best DII track runners in the nation.
Adams State senior Kevin Batt was also part of the record setting DMR team on Friday night. He is no stranger to blowing away competition, being a two-time RMAC track athlete of the year. He holds the Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championship 3000 record of 8:07.30, which he set two years ago.
On Saturday, he would better himself.
Batt maintained a steady pace throughout the 3K, almost as if he was on cruise control. Freshman Alfred Chelanga from Shorter would hold the lead most of the way, with Batt casually staying close behind. Batt would hold in third place for a bit and then he made his move.
You could see on Chelanga’s face that the tides were turning. The seasoned veteran didn’t even appear to be breathing hard. As Chelanga grew more visibly tired, Batt capitalized. He pulled away down the second-to-last straightaway.
Batt had a huge lead now and as he came around the final bend, Batt glanced behind him and saw victory was his. He looked up into the bleachers at the Adams State faithful and they roared loudly as Batt cruised across the finish line. A fist pump and a high five, and it was another record. He crushed his own record by nearly seven full seconds, finishing at 8:01.42.
It would be all that Adams State would need. The win brought the Grizzlies to 41 points, one ahead of GVSU. Adams State junior Zach Baxter added some insurance by placing 5th in the shotput bringing its score to 45.
GVSU had one chance left in the final event of the day, and Adams State had no entries. The Lakers couldn’t muster any points in the men’s 4x400, and the Grizzlies clinched their championship.