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.”
• 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Results listed when available)
Joe Franklin, head coach, New Mexico — Both men’s and women’s teams were favored to win the Mountain West Championships, which were run on Saturday.
Andy Weatherford, Sr., Indiana — Placed fifth overall and led team in 25:03 in Indiana Intercollegiates.
Serena Simeoli, Jr., Indiana State — Finished 18th in the Evansville Mid-America meet in 16:30.00.
Gabrielle Kuhn, So., Vincennes — Finished 66th overall in the EIU Walt Crawford Open in a time of 20:47.93..
Ethan Jacob, So., Southern Indiana — Ran third on the team and 21st overall in the 2011 Mid-America Opener in a time of 20:52.00.
D.J. Danner, Fr., John Brown U. — Finished 278th in 38:57.9 in the Chile Pepper Invitational won by Oklahoma State.
John Latta, Sr., Southern Indiana — Finished 11th in the Great Lakes Valley Conference meet in a time of 25:17.1.
Kylee Thacker, Jr., Indiana State — Placed 40th in 19:20 in the 5K Indiana Intercollegiates.
Cassandra Barnett, Jr., St. Mary-of-the-Woods — Ran fourth on the team and 46th overall in the St. Louis Fall Invitational in 21:59.0.
Conor Strain, Fr., Indiana State
David Ulrich, Sr., Olivet Nazarene
Austin Dart, Fr., Danville Area CC — Placed 120th overall and third on the team in the Bradley Invitational in 27:17.1.
Anthony Witt, Sr., Grand Valley State — Won GLIAC individual championship.
Drew Gambill, Fr., Indiana State — Finished 11th in the open division of the Indiana Intercollegiates in 26:35.
Terre Haute North
Chad Braun, Sr., Rose-Hulman — Finished 160th in 28:45 in the Wilmington Invitational.
Zach Mayhew, Jr., Indiana — Finished second on the team and 29th overall in the Pre-Nationals Meet at the Lavern Gibson Championship Course in time of 24:48.
Brandon Query, Jr., Indiana State — Placed eighth overall in Evansville Mid-America meet in 19:12.00.
Lindy Jones, So., Indiana State — Placed 19th in the open division of the Indiana Intercollegiates in 20:35.
Alexa McFadden, So., Indiana State — Placed 30th in the Evansville Mid-America meet in 17:08.
Dustin Query, Fr., DePauw — Finished 90th in the Otterbein Invitational in 30:31.6.
John Mascari, Fr., Indiana — Sitting out season as a redshirt.
Dylan Bertsch, Fr., Indiana State
Milton Brinza, Fr., Indiana State — Placed sixth in the Evansville Mid-America meet in 19:05.00.
Carson Bishop, Fr., Rose-Hulman — Finished 141st in 289:25 in the Wilmington Invitational.
Phillip Mellor, Fr., Rose-Hulman
Terre Haute South
Adriane Wunderlich, assistant coach, Rose-Hulman — Serving as volunteer assistant.
Kristy Twitchell, Sr., Indiana State — Placed 34th in Indiana Intercollegiates in 19:08..
Andrew Sullivan, Jr., Indiana State — Placed 25th in the open division of the Notre Dame Invitational in 26:47..
Brianne Steppe, So., Franklin
Clayton Harlan, So., Manchester — Ran fifth on the team and 15th overall in the Manchester Invitational in a time of 217:11.5.
Taylor Head, Fr., Indiana State — Originally signed with Troy University in Alabama, transferred to ISU.
Matthew Collier, Fr., Vincennes — Finished sixth on the team and 135th overall in the Indiana Intercollegiates in 28:51.
White River Valley
Jennifer Hughes, Jr., St. Mary-of-the-Woods — Ran sixth on the team and 55th overall in the St. Louis Fall Invitational in 22:31.8.