By RJ WALTERS / Daily News Sports Editor
While the Grand Valley Lakers took steps toward a pair of GLIAC track and field championships on a rain-plagued Thursday, the Hillsdale Chargers quietly continued to make strides and show improvement from a year ago.
After finishing fifth last season, they stood just three points (26) behind Findlay (29) for fourth, and following a sixth place league finish in 2008, the Charger women were in fourth, within striking distance of a podium finish.
Grand Valley holds just a one-point lead over the defending conference champion Ashland on the men’s side, 61-60, with Saginaw Valley State still in contention with 51 points.
The Lakers are clearly in control in the women’s competition where they hold a 90-55 advantage over the Eagles, with Northern Michigan a distant third with 37 points.
The highlight of the day for Hillsdale was the effort of sophomore Gwen Buchop in the women’s javelin throw, where she went from ninth place in the conference a season ago, all the way to GLIAC champ with a throw of 34.06 meters on her final of three attempts.
Last year Buchop actually had a top throw of 35.39 meters at the conference meet, but with a slippery field and drizzle throughout the afternoon conditions dictated just how far the women could throw it Thursday.
Heading into her final attempt Buchop had only garnered a throw of 33.08, which would’ve placed her sixth in the final standings, but she came through in the clutch and is just one example of Charger youngsters making a name for themselves.
She also did what Charger graduate Kristin Donovan could not do in her final league championship meet, as she finished second in the javelin throw at GLIACs as a senior last season.
Charger junior Anna Leutheuser, a Hillsdale Academy graduate, also performed well in the javelin throw, placing fifth with a top throw of 33.37. Last season she placed 12th at the conference meet.
No other Chargers took home individual crowns Thursday, but a couple came close.
For the second straight year Jared Krout was the runner-up in the men’s long jump, even though he was able to overcome a nemesis from Grand Valley who beat him last season.
Krout held the lead going into the final round, but Northwood’s Paris Gooch came through with a 7.16 meter jump to swipe the title. With one final chance Krout faulted, leaving him second.
GVSU’s Ryan Rademacher, the 2008 GLIAC champ, took third with a 6.8 meter jump.
Moving to the high jump, Charger senior Andrew Dodson took fifth, with a couple of freshmen phenoms taking away his chance at a podium finish.
He also finished fifth at the 2008 championships, but he improved his mark from 1.91 meters to 2.00.
Junior Aaron Falk took third place in a very competitive class of weight throwers, with a top throw of 60.27. He was fourth last year and his mark was only a little more than half a meter from the runner-up spot.
Today, the final day of the meet, marks the busiest, most intense of them all with 28 total championships up for grabs and plenty of chances for movement in the team competition.
The meet begins at 11 a.m. and the final relay is set to start at 3:15 p.m. For live stats from the meet check out the Hillsdale College athletics Web site.
Charger head coach Bill Lundberg was unavailable for comment late Thursday.