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Lenny Padilla | | May 21, 2014

GVSU's Hixson leads powerhouse field in national meet

hixson-521.jpg Kristen Hixson won the DII pole vault title in 2012.

ALLENDALE, Mich. -- Kristen Hixson is so motivated to win another national championship that she dreams about it.

Hixson, a senior pole vaulter for Grand Valley State, won the NCAA Division II title during the 2012 outdoor championships. 

"I had a dream about pole vaulting two nights ago," she said on Monday. "It is always there, but not in a bad way. It is there in a good way." 

Grand Valley State is the host team for the 2014 Division II Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships this week in Allendale, Mich. The Lakers enter the week as the No. 1 team in the nation and are sending 28 women, the most in the field.

"She is an intrinsic competitor," GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes said of Hixson, who holds the school record with a vault of 4.38 meters (14', 4.5"), which ranks sixth across all divisions and is .25 meters (8") higher than the next-best vault in Division II. 

"[She’s] very quiet and goes about her work," Baltes said. "She has that inner fire that really motivates her to do well."

If the final Division II rankings are any indication, it may be a pretty tight race this week. GVSU surpassed Lincoln by one point in the final rankings. The Lakers have 222.46 points and Lincoln, located in Jefferson City, Mo., has 221.50 points.

Rounding out the top five in the national rankings are No. 3 Adams State (186.41 points), Johnson C. Smith (168.98 points) and Ashland (156.54 points).

Lincoln sends 15 women to the championships. Three Lincoln athletes, Yanique Ellington, Janae Johnson and Tamara Keane, will represent the Blue Tigers in three events. Ellington and Johnson will each compete in the 100-meter dash, 200 and 4x100 relay while Keane is slated to race in the 400, 400 hurdles and the 4x400 relay.

“There are four really, really good teams that could win it,” said Baltes of GVSU, Lincoln, Adams State and Johnson C. Smith. “Lincoln’s a great team … honestly, any one of those teams can win it. The good thing is we have a lot of numbers. We’ll need to get points from just about everyone to win it.”

The coach of the year award was named after Jerry Baltes, who has won the honor 11 times. He led the Grand Valley women to national titles in 2011 and 2012.
GVSU is strong in the pole vault with Hixson (4.38m) being the No. 1 seed and Jennifer Schornak at No. 5 (4.03m). But they’re also strong in distance. Courtney Brewis (34:38.01) is the No. 2 seed in the 10,000 while teammate Jessica Janecke (35:04.23) is No. 6 and Molly Slavens (35:20.54) is No. 9. 

Hannah Osborn (10:30.50) is seeded fourth in the steeplechase.

“In the first half the season it was looking like we might not have any distance runners make the meet,” Baltes said. “Fortunately things improved and have a lot a lot great athletes across the board.” 

Adams State, located in Alamosa, Colo., will be a contender as well. It won the 2014 indoor national championship in March.

In the indoor finals, Kayon Robinson won first place in the 400 meters (53.90) and finished third in the 200 (23.98). The Grizzlies had two athletes earn points in the 3,000. Alicia Nelson won first place with a time of 9:41.09. Lauren Martin finished in eighth place with a time of 9:48.94. Maura O'Brien finished in second place in the mile with a time of 4:51.34. 

Robinson is the No. 2 seed this week in the 400, behind Livingstone’s Quanera Hayes (52.49).  Nelson is the top seed in the steeplechase (9:59.83) and the 5,000 (16:13.94). 

The fastest women in the nation is New Haven’s Ada Udaya. The junior was the top qualifier in the 100 and 200 meters. She ran a season-best 11.34 seconds in the 100. Udaya, a two-time indoor All-America selection, was 0.12 seconds faster than the rest of the field in the 100. She also has the fastest time in the 200 dash, crossing the line in 23.22 seconds. That time is ahead of the other top qualifiers by 0.27 seconds. This year, she was named United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) East Region Outdoor Track & Field Athletes of the Year for the second consecutive time.

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