GVSU Cross Country

Coaching Staff

Jerry Baltes
Head Coach

Jerry Baltes is in his 20th year at the helm of the men's and women's cross country and track and field teams at Grand Valley State in 2018-19. During his time at GVSU, Baltes has been able to build nine championship teams, seven Division II Women’s Program of the Year awards, one Division II Men’s Program of the Year and led GVSU to 101 out of 114 cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field GLIAC championships.

Overall, Baltes has won 62 GLIAC Coach of the Year titles and has groomed over 200 All-American athletes for a combined total of 711 All-American honors. Baltes has received the Great Lakes/Midwest Regional Coach of the Year Award in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field for a combined total of 54 times. 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 since 2001, while the men won all three for a streak of five seasons (2003-07) including a sweep of the titles during the 2017-18 year.

The cross country program under Baltes at the NCAA Championships has had a combined 33 top-10 finishes with 12 top-five finishes from the men and 18 top-five finishes by the women including five national championships in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016.

Baltes wasted no time in making a name for the women's program as the Lakers have won seven out of the last 10 Jerry Baltes Division II Program of the Year awards, including five in a row from the 2008-2009 season through 2012-2013.

In cross country, Baltes has led the women to 18 GLIAC titles, including 17 straight conference and regional titles championships and five National Championships. In 2010, Baltes and the Lakers finally won their first cross country title after the women scored 66 points as all five of their scoring runners finished in the top-20. GVSU would add four more championships including three-in-row from 2012-14 and their fifth title in 2016.

In track and field, Baltes has dominated the GLIAC as he has guided the women's indoor and outdoor track & field teams to 19 straight GLIAC titles, including school records in points with 253.5 and 255 points during the 2018 GLIAC Indoor and Outdoor Championships. At the national level Baltes has guided GVSU to four more championships with back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012 during the indoor and outdoor seasons.

On the men’s side, Baltes has built one of the best programs in the nation, as the program has finished second in the Damon Martin Division II Men’s Program of Year standings from the 2013-2014 season through the 2016-17 season. In 2017-18, GVSU finally won its first Men’s Program of the Year award, as the cross country team finished second in the NCAA Cross Country Championships, sixth at the NCAA Indoor Championships and fifth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Similar to the women’s cross country team, Baltes has built a men’s program that has dominated the GLIAC and the Midwest region since, and one the nations best program his arrive to GVSU. The Lakers have won 16 consecutive GLIAC and Regional championships and have finished second in the NCAA Cross Country Championships four out of the last six years from 2012 through 2017, while having placed ninth in 2002, sixth in 2004, fourth in 2005, fifth in 2006, fourth in 2007, fifth in 2008, fifth in 2009, third in 2010, third in 2011, seventh in 2012 and fourth in 2015.

The men’s track & field program has collected 17 GLIAC Indoor Championships and 12 Outdoor Championships, both of which are the most in the GLIAC. At the NCAA Championships, the Lakers have finished in the top-10 seven times during the Indoor Championships and have had six top-10 performances during the Outdoor Championships.

Baltes has led the men's and women's indoor and outdoor track teams to 57 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, fourth in 2013, sixth in 2014, second in 2015, fifth in 2016, eighth in 2017 and sixth in 2018. 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, fourth in 2013, fourth in 2014, sixth in 2015, third in 2016, second in 2017 and eighth in 2018. The men's outdoor track and field team finished in 13th place in 2006, eighth in 2007, sixth in 2008, 12th in 2009, 16th in 2011, sixth in 2014, 10th in 2015, fifth in 2016,13th in 2017 and fifth in 2018. 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, third in 2013, third in 2014, fourth in 2015, fourth in 2016, second in 2017 and fourth in 2018.

Baltes has had 24 individual national championships and four relay teams at GVSU. Most recently, Zach Panning claimed a national title in the 5,000m run during the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships, while the women’s 4x400m relay team composed of Jessica Eby, Angela Ritter, Chant’e Roberts and Rachael Walters also won a championship at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships.  Jason Van Elst became Grand Valley's first-ever individual National Champion as he won the 35 pound weight throw (65'-9.5") in 2001 in Boston, Mass. Mandi (Long) Zemba became the school's first-ever female athlete to win an individual national championship in the 1,500m race during the 2002 outdoor season.

Other student-athletes who have competed at the USA Track and Field Championships since Baltes has been at GVSU includes Sam Lockhart, Mandi Zemeba (5,000m/8,000m) Betsy Graney (3,000m Steeplechase), Rachel Patterson (5,000m), Kristen Hixson (Pole Vault), Darien Thornton (Hammer Throw), and current Lakers Zach Panning (10,000m) and Rachael Walters (800m).

Prior to Grand Valley State, Baltes was a four-time letter winner and captain of the cross country/track and field teams at Butler University. He then began his coaching career at Butler where he 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.

Originally from Rolling Prairie, Indiana, Baltes graduated from Butler in 1998, and received a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education-physical education.

Aaron Watson
Assistant Coach

Aaron Watson is in his fifth 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.

Kyle Barnes
Assistant Coach