Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
It’s 337 miles from Shakamak High School to Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., if you’re thinking of taking a long jog.
For most people, that’s a really long way.
For Anthony Witt, it’s less than weeks of practice mileage.
The senior cross country standout has had a monster year for the Division II Lakers, achieving the following accomplishments:
• Last Saturday, he was named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference "Athlete of the Year" at the GLIAC Championships in Ashland, Ohio, after claiming the individual trophy with a time of 25:24.34
• Has led team to No. 1 Midwest Regional ranking and No. 3 national ranking among men’s cross country teams and to 10th consecutive GLIAC championship
• Was named the GLIAC men's cross country "Runner of the Week" after finishing fourth in 26:26 at the Penn State National Invitational, competing against mostly Division I competition. Witt was the highest Division II finisher and helped lead the Lakers to a second-place finish in the team standings, finishing only eight points behind host Penn State. Witt has been either the first or second-highest finisher for GVSU in every event he has run in this season.
• Was recently named to the GLIAC Academic Excellence Team, which honors athletes with cumulative grade point averages from 3.50-4.00. Witt is a biomedical science major.
There’s really just one thing missing from that impressive resume, and Witt and his Laker teammates hope to take care of that vacancy next month.
“From the beginning, our goal has been to win a national championship,” said Witt of himself and his recruiting classmates of three years ago, “knowing that if we were ever to get one, it would be in our last year.
“We have faced a lot of adversity already this year with injuries, but we have held it together to beat every team we've faced before narrowly losing to Penn State at their own invite.”
Witt considers this year’s Division II national championship to be a “toss-up” between GVSU, top-ranked Western State and No. 2-ranked Adams State.
“Everyone in the nation is overlooking us because we have been on sloppy courses with slow times all year,” Witt noted. “We definitely believe that we have the strength and depth to get the job done.”
GVSU Coach Jerry Baltes has no shortage of praise for Witt, both in terms of his production during races and as an example to the other team members.
“Anthony has been the cornerstone for our program over the course of his career here at GVSU both in training and racing,” Baltes said. “He came in as a well-trained high school student athlete which allowed him to step right in and be able to train at the college level successfully. Since his freshman year he has steadily progressed with his training from 90 miles a week early on in his career to 120-125 miles a week this fall.”
Baltes is also impressed that Witt is able to compete at such a high level while also maintaining a sparkling academic record in a rugged curriculum of coursework
“His strongest quality is his focus and discipline to getting the work done on a consistent basis,” he said. “If anything, we have to focus on holding him back in terms of his training schedule so he does not overdo it. He is also very tough when the gun goes off, and is willing to push through whatever is needed to get the job done.”
Witt and the Lakers will compete in the Midwest Regional at Bay City, Mich., on Saturday. The NCAA Championships are Nov. 19 in Spokane, Wash.
Baltes shares Witt’s confidence in the team’s ability to bring home the NCAA crown.
“Our goal all season has been to compete to win an NCAA title, and this year is not different,” he said. “We are simply going to use the next 3 weeks to prepare physically and mentally to be ready to go in Spokane, and if all of our student athletes can compete to the best of their ability on that day we feel we can walk away with the results we are shooting for.”
Witt has enjoyed his career at GVSU and has a solid future ahead of him regardless of the NCAA outcome.
“My four years at Grand Valley have been amazing,” he said. “It's been so nice to show up to practice every day with a group of people with the same goals and level of motivation. My future plans are to attend medical school next year, hopefully through I.U. on the Terre Haute campus.”
n Grimes to be inducted – Terre Haute Gerstmeyer grad John Grimes will be inducted on Friday night into the Marian University’s M-Club Wall of Fame for his many contributions to the Knights’ athletic program over the past several decades.
Grimes served as athletic director at the private Indianapolis school for 26 years, taking over a department that fielded five sports and increasing that total to 18.
He has also won more than 500 games as men’s basketball coach, and is described by the school as “the ultimate Marian University ambassador who works tirelessly and timeless to make Marian University and its student-athletes the best that they can be.”
• South grad Taylor Hayne and the Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) College Blue Raiders are continuing their great season and are guaranteed at least a share of the Mid-South Conference volleyball title.
The Blue Raiders are 27-2 overall and 10-2 in the MSC, and had a 20-match winning streak stopped on Thursday with a loss to Campbellsville. Hayne, a freshman, had six kills and a .313 hitting percentage in that match.
• Bulgarian professional basketball teams are permitted three American players, and the Balkan Botevgrad squad is taking up two of those spots with former Indiana State Sycamores.
Isiah Martin, who provided depth as ISU earned an NCAA bid last spring, will team up with former Sycamore Josh Crawford for the European squad.
The third American is 30-year-old former Louisville standout Dwayne Morton.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at email@example.com.