Jerry Baltes is in his 18th year at the helm of both the men's and women's cross country and track and field teams at Grand Valley State. During that time, Baltes has been able to build six championship programs as the Lakers have won 79 out of 96 cross country, indoor, and outdoor track and field GLIAC championships.
Overall, Baltes has won 62 GLIAC Coach of the Year titles and has groomed 199 All-American athletes (80 men, 119 women) to a combined total of 441 All-American honors. Baltes has received the Great Lakes/Midwest Regional Coach of the Year Award 14 times each in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field for a total of 38. The women's cross country, track and field teams at Grand Valley State have won all three (cross country, indoor track, outdoor track) conference championships in each of the last 12 seasons, while the men won all three for a streak of five seasons (2003-07).
Baltes has led the men's and women's indoor and outdoor track teams to 61 top-20 finishes at the NCAA National Championships. The men's indoor track and field team placed 13th in 2000, 15th in 2001, 12th in 2002, 18th in 2005, 10th in 2006, eighth in 2007, fourth in 2008, 12th in 2009, 20th in 2011 and fourth in 2013. The women's team finished 14th in 1999, ninth in 2002, seventh in 2003, 16th in 2005, fifth in 2006, third in 2007, sixth in 2008, second in 2009, second in 2010, first in 2011, first in 2012 and fourth in 2013. The men's outdoor track and field team finished in 13th place in 2006, eighth in 2007, sixth in 2008, 12th in 2009, and 16th in 2011. The women's team placed 11th in 2002, 18th in 2005, fourth in 2006, fifth in 2007, eighth in 2008, fourth in 2009, third in 2010, first in 2011, first in 2012 and third in 2013.
The Laker cross country teams have experienced a great deal of success on the national level. Baltes wasted no time in making a name for the women's program as they finished fifth in the nation in 1999 and have finished in the top five every year since them. The women's team has finished in the top three spots in the last six seasons, including second-place finishes in both 2005 and 2008 with national championships in 2010 and 2012. The men's team has also had success at the national level, making the national stage for the first time in 2002 and finishing ninth. The Lakers finished in third place in 2010, the program's best ever finish.
The 2010-11 year was a banner season for both Baltes and the GVSU program as he guided the women's teams to all three national championships. The cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field teams all finished at the top, making GVSU the first women's program in NCAA?history to win all three titles in one year.
Baltes has guided 32 individuals and three relay teams to NCAA National Championships in his tenure at Grand Valley State. Jason Van Elst became Grand Valley's first-ever individual National Champion as he won the 35# weight throw (65'-9.5") in 2002 in Boston, Mass. Mandi (Long) Zemba became the school's first-ever female athlete to win an individual national championship. She is an eight-time NCAA National Champion and won her first title as a true freshman in the 1500 meter with a time of 4:28.53. In 2005, Zemba won the individual National Championship in cross country as she covered the 6,000 meter course in Pomona, Calif. in a time of 21:01.7. She went on to capture the 3,000 and 5,000 meter runs at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships in Emporia, Kan. Her time of 15:48.62 at the Stanford Cardinal Invitational qualified her for the USA Track and Field National Championships in Indianapolis where she finished 16th. Zemba rewrote the distance record books in 2006 by breaking six GVSU school records. Steph Kuhlman claimed the National Championship title in the 800m in 2003 in Edwardsville, Ill. with a winning time of 2:05.34. She set the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship record of 2:05.75 in 2003 in the prelims. Kuhlman also qualified and competed in the 2003 USA Track and Field Championships in Stanford.
Other student-athletes who have competed at the USA Track and Field Championships since Baltes has been at GVSU include Sam Lockhart, Betsy Graney and Rachel Patterson.
In the years since, Baltes has been at the helm of student-athletes from nearly every discipline winning national titles.
Originally from Rolling Prairie, Ind., Baltes was a four-time letter winner and captain of the cross country/track and field teams at Butler University. Graduating from Butler in 1998, Baltes received a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education-physical education.
Baltes was the assistant men's and women's track and field/cross country coach for two years at Butler. His area of focus was with the distance athletes in cross country and the jumpers in track. He played a major role in building a cross country program that qualified for the National Championships. In 1998, he assisted in leading the Butler Bulldogs to 16th place at the NCAA Championships. Baltes also guided Butler's first track athlete to the 1998 National Championships in the 3,000, 5,000, and 10,000 meters, since 1971.
Certified by the NCAA to recruit, and in charge of the Midwestern region, Baltes brought in the largest recruiting class ever in Butler cross country history. Having experience in organizing events, scheduling, and keeping his players motivated, Baltes' management skills have played a large role in his success. He assisted in all aspects of team travel, organized team events and activities, coordinated equipment orders with Adidas, and kept contact with alumni.
Aaron Watson is in his third season at Grand Valley State as an Assistant Track & Field and Assistant Cross Country Coach in charge of Distance Events.
Comes to Grand Valley State after one year as the Assistant Coach of Cross Country/Track & Field at Temple University, where he organized all aspects of the student-athlete development, including the creation of training plans, supervision of workouts, . Watson also helped five Temple runners set school records for both the men’s and women’s cross country and track & field teams.
Prior to coaching for Temple, Watson was a volunteer assistant coach for the Grand Valley State cross country and track & field programs from 2010-2013. As a volunteer assistant, Watson was in charge of supervising practices and team travel to competitions, administered and recorded workouts, and created programs for athletes returning from injury. In addition, Watson assisted with on-campus recruiting and worked in all areas of event management.
Watson graduated from Grand Valley State in 2012 with a degree in Sports Management.
Watson is a USA Track & Field Level Certified coach.