2017 D2 XC Top 5 Teams: #2 Grand Valley State Lakers



2. GVSU Lakers

Coach: Jerry Baltes

Notable Departures: Chris May, Nate Orndorf, Bryce Bradley

Notable Additions: Tanner Chada, Noah Steffen

Projected Scoring Five:

Zach Panning (Jr), Trevor Sharnas (Sr), Woui Mach (Sr),

Kevin Black (Jr), Josh Steible (Sr)

Analysis:

The perfect season for Grand Valley was stopped by a 2nd place finish at the National Championships last year. The Laker women were able to secure a title in St. Leo while the men had to settle for runner-up.

GVSU is a team led by Zach Panning, the 5th place individual at NCAA’s last year who will be the second-best returner in 2017. Sydney Gidabuday of Adams State is the only returner ahead of him. Could the 2017 National Championships for individuals and teams come down to these two men?

In 2016, the Lakers opened and closed their season with a pair of 2nd place finishes while the rest of the year they remained undefeated. The Lakers began their 2016 campaign against a deep field at the Spartan Invitational. They lost a close race to the 30th ranked DI school in Michigan State on the Spartans home course.

Grand Valley did not slow down from there. In their next meet, the Lakers went on to win the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic with victories over Louisville, Middle Tennessee State and Virginia Tech to name a few. They won with an average 8k time of 24:18, making a national statement that they were contenders for the title.

The Lakers continued to beat up on teams at the Conference Crossover Meet and then in their GLIAC Championship where they only scored 28 points going 2-3-4-9-10-11-14. This was the men’s 15th straight conference title and it maintained their dominance over the area.

The Midwest Regional Championship was no different for the Lakers who only scored 45 points by taking spots 4-5-9-13-14 in one of the best regions in the country. We even saw Chris May and Zach Panning cross the line together which indicated that they had more to give.

The National Championship proved to be more difficult for the Lakers as they finished runner-up to Adams State by 25 points, losing 54-79. The Lakers were actually scored as the winning team at 8k and 8.8k, but gave up spots over the last kilometer which decided the National Championship.

The good news for the Lakers is that if you were to score only the top four runners, then the Lakers were only seven points back of Adams State. Unfortunately, they gave up 18 spots on the 5th man battle.

Looking towards 2017, the Lakers have kept the same schedule from last year only while also adding more meets. I suspect that this a move to give their large roster more opportunities to race and fight for top seven spots. The Spartan Invitational and Greater Louisville Classic will provide more chances for the Lakers to square up with some of the best division one programs in the country.

However, GVSU loses their 2nd, 3rd, and 6th place scorers from last year’s NCAA Championship which leaves some big holes for the Lakers to fill. Having a large roster should lead to some surprise breakout runners thanks to top-tier training partners and coaches. Additionally, the Lakers have added recruits Tanner Chada and Noah Steffen who will look to help fill the voids left by the graduating class. Chada holds an impressive 9:12 3200m personal best while Steffen has run 15:40 over 5,000m.

Overall the depth of the Lakers will be put to the test in 2017 to see if they can come back and fight for another shot at a National Championship. Led by the second-best returning runner in the nation, I expect this experienced Laker team to find their way back into title conversation late in the season.

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