Rutgers clocks in season best performances at Penn Relay carnival
In the midst of the largest track and field meet in the nation, Franklin Field may have seemed chaotic this weekend, but it was actually very simple.
Four runners, one baton and the notoriously pervasive ticking clock.
Embarking on the 121st running of the Penn Relays, the Rutgers women’s track and field team joined over 22,000 athletes gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to compete in the world’s oldest relay meet.
The Scarlet Knights did more than embrace the frenzied atmosphere — they used it to their advantage.
Between the three relay squads that ran this weekend, Rutgers posted two season-best performances and clocked in two ECAC qualifying times.
The zealous energy of the meet had an evident impact on the track.
“It was tremendous,” head coach James Robinson said of the atmosphere at Penn Relays. “The crowd’s always huge and the atmosphere is always great. It’s a great meet to spectate and compete in, and I think that really helps to fuel the athletes as well.”
With this exciting change of scenery in comparison to their usual invitational meets, the Knights delivered.
In their season debut as a quartet, senior Jillian Grant, junior Kaprice James and freshmen Bria Saunders and Imani Beauliere came together for the 4x200-meter relay, taking fourth place in the ECAC Championship Division with their season-best time of 1:37.63.
The squad bested its time from the preliminary heat by nearly three seconds with its performance in the finals.
Stifled by poor weather conditions on Friday, the squad came back on Saturday to a larger crowd, a sunny sky and a fresh outlook to capture a top-finish in the finals.
“We ran fast enough to get into the finals but it wasn’t the fastest we all knew we were capable of doing,” Beauliere said on her relay’s performance in the preliminaries. “Coming back … we were all ready to run a lot faster than we did Friday.”
The Knights refused to become complacent, fueled by the conviction that their quartet’s potential had not been fully reached in the first day of competition.
Although execution of training in meets has been a struggle for Rutgers this season, it was not an issue this weekend.
“They came back with more competitive fire,” Robinson said. “I think they were very excited and wanted to go out and prove on Saturday that they belong in the finals and they can run much better and they did that so that was great to see.”
Also highlighting the weekend for Rutgers was 4x800-meter relay team, which also logged in a season-best time. Sophomores Kaitlyn Bedard and Sarah Robbie joined freshman Deanna DiLandro and senior Felicia O’Donnell to clock in an ECAC qualifying time of 9:02.59.
The 4x100-meter quartet of junior Alayna Famble, Saunders, James and Grant collected an ECAC qualifying mark as well, running a time of 47.96 seconds.
At such a large-scale, hectic meet, the Knights thrived off of the energy they were thrown into the weekend and savored the experience.
“Penn Relays is arguably the best track event ever. It’s wild,” DiLandro said. “When you’re on the track, there’s so many people, you’re surrounded by this arena full of thousands of people and it’s like no other track race you’ll ever run. It’s crazy. It makes your adrenaline rush even more and it makes you just want to perform well.”
Among thousands of athletes and spectators, it was crucial for Rutgers to maintain a balance between feeding off of the atmosphere and maintaining an acute focus on the race at hand.
Impervious to any intimidation from competitors, the Knights excelled knowing that they were running for not just themselves, but for their teammates.
“We’re not really thinking about the people that are next to us or the teams that we’re competing against,” Beauliere said. “(We just focus on) trying to get the stick best off to the person in front of us to give them a better lead and a better chance to run against others.”
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