June 18, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers credits unity as key to outdoor prosperity

Photo by Michelle Klejmont |

Junior hurdler Kaprice James preaches the need for positivity and camaraderie to achieve success in the outdoor season. 

There is a distinct difference between a team and 33 individuals.

The Rutgers women’s track and field team has reached the same conclusion, realizing that individual performances cannot equate to overall team success without one key factor: unity.

For the Scarlet Knights, the bonds were there, however, the carry over into competitions was not.

The close, supportive team dynamic had always played a role in motivating Rutgers on the track in practice and competitions. The Knights just needed to comprehend the idea that more could be harnessed from their bonds.

“We’re more family-oriented. The coaches act almost like our parents in a way and all the teammates are more like siblings,” said freshman sprinter Bria Saunders. “We all want to do better for ourselves and also (for) each other, so when we go out there we run for ourselves but we’re also running for everyone else.”

The necessity for team unity became particularly evident for Rutgers at its most recent meet when the team traveled to Williamsburg for the Colonial Relays on April 3.

The Knights ventured down to Virginia with big shoes to fill. Rutgers captured the Colonial Relays title for the previous two consecutive years — the only team to do so in the event’s 50-year history.

On the other hand, the hopes of a three-peat were shattered after the first day of competition. The Knights struggled to get on the board and capture top-10 finishes amid the 58 college teams and 2,100 athletes competing.

Rutgers rallied after the conclusion of the first day and discussed the pressing need to come together in gearing up for the second day.

The contrast of performances between each day could give reason to question whether it was the same team competing while donning a black shirt with a block "R."

An answer came when the Knights posted four top-five finishes, two season-bests and an ECAC qualifying time in relay events. All credit for the change in performances can be given to Rutgers' ability to unify and come together as a team.

Head coach James Robinson feels that the two days at the Colonial Relays are a prime display that collective individual intensity with a team focus will be the key in yielding all-around successful results.

“I think it showed that if everyone focuses and brings their A-game at the same time, then we have the opportunity to be a good team, so it gives them kind of a glimpse into the future of the season,” Robinson said. “When they really bring their best game to the table, they can do good things and that’s really the best take away from it.”

The Knights are constantly working to strengthen the bonds they’ve forged as a team — those bonds have not just carried over onto the competition field prior to their last match up. 

As championship meets inch closer and closer, the team hopes to use strong unity to improve upon what has already been a strong start to the 2015 season.

“We just want to be more positive about everything,” said junior hurdler Kaprice James. “As a team, we just have to get together and work together more.”

Unified team support paired with improved performances prompts positive mentalities among the team. Rutgers is innately aware of the power that one’s mindset can have on the track.

Motivated by a team dynamic of unity, support and enthusiasm, the family that the Knights have created remains eager to tackle their next competition with a fiery zeal for success.

“I think the fact that our team’s so close knit really impacts all of our mentalities,” Saunders said. “You go out there and you want to represent your teammates well, you want to represent the school well yourself, so the fact that we’re so close motivates us to do better.”

For updates on the Rutgers women's track and field team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Kaylee Pofahl

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