BRADENTON, Fla. – Grand Valley State finishes the first day of the 2016 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships in first place on both the men's and the women's sides after a combined six Laker athletes achieved finishes inside the top eight on Thursday (May 26) at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
The Grand Valley State men sit in first place among the 21 teams competing in Bradenton with 16 points, just two points ahead of second-place Tiffin and three ahead of Ashland in third. Meanwhile, the Laker women currently sit in a three-way tie for first with Missouri Southern and Winona State with 14 points.
Darien Thornton became the first male Laker to win an outdoor individual title in the field events since 2011 when he took first place in the hammer throw with a mark of 71.21m (233' 7'') on his second attempt of the event. Thornton, who was named the USTFCCCA Midwest Region Men's Field Athlete of the Year, led for the entire event. The last GVSU field athlete to win an outdoor title was Daniel Vanek in the shot put at the 2011 outdoor championships in Turlock, California.
The 2016 indoor track & field national champion in the pole vault, Jaime Roberts finished third in the outdoor championships by vaulting 4.05m (13' 3.5''), tying Emily Presley of Missouri Southern and Davina Carr of U-Mary for the mark. However, Roberts hit 4.05m on her third attempt, while Presley nailed in on her first attempt and Carr her second.
Amy Cymerman placed third in the 10000m with a time of 34:46.65, giving the Laker women six team points. The national champion in the event at last year's National Championship, Cymerman started the race outside the scoring positions at ninth in the first split and dropping down as far as 11th in the third split. The senior moved up to 10th by the 1600m point, where she stayed until moving back to ninth at the 2800m split and into eighth at the 3600m split. At the 5200m point, Cymerman began to steadily move up from sixth to fifth, then to fourth, and finally into third at the 6800m split, where she remained for the rest of the race.
The GVSU men scored four points from a fifth-place finish in the 10000m by Chris May. The junior started off the race in 10th by the first split and dropped to as far as 15th by the 2000m split. By the 2800m point, however, May climbed back to 10th and began his steady rise throughout the remainder of the race. He moved into eighth by the 3600m point and seventh at the 5200m mark, and then May slid into sixth at the 7600m mark. May moved into fifth with just 400 meters left in the race and held off 2015 cross country individual champion Alfred Chelanga of Shorter to score four team points for Grand Valley State.
Scoring two points for the Laker women was Whitney Bice in a sixth-place tie in the pole vault. Bice tied for sixth with Faryn Wirkus of Minnesota State and Brittany Kallenberger of Central Missouri by vaulting 3.85m (12' 7.5'') on her first try before missing on the next height on all three attempts.
Mike Moon tallied two points for GV by placing seventh in the hammer throw. The junior thrower made a throw of 58.87m (193' 1'') on his first attempt, placing him in sixth and qualifying him for the final field of competitors in the event. On his final throw, Moon hit a distance of 62.94m (206' 6''), just narrowly placing him behind a 63.00m (206' 8'') attempt of Stanislaus State's Gary Randolph and netting the Lakers two team points.
A number of men and women Laker athletes also ran well enough in their preliminaries to qualify for the finals of their respective events. Angela Ritter finished the 400m preliminary with a time of 54.24 in heat two, giving her the seventh-best time out of the qualifying field. In the 1500m preliminary, Amy Creutz finished with a time of 4:29.25 in heat one and Gina Patterson crossed the line at 4:30.42 in the second heat, giving the two the 10th and 12th-best times out of the qualifiers, respectively. On the men's side, TJ Burnett ran in the third heat of the 400m hurdles prelims and finished with a time of 51.58, placing him fifth among all qualifiers.