Rutgers falls short of three-peat
The impact of teamwork is not to be underestimated.
The Rutgers women’s track and field team realized the significance of this facet of the sport when it saw the positivity spill over in its individual and team performances.
At their most recent meet on April 3-4, the Scarlet Knights ventured down to Williamsburg, Virginia, to compete against over 2,100 student-athletes from 58 collegiate teams at the Colonial Relays.
Rutgers entered having captured the championship title for the past two years — the first and only school to do so in meet history.
Although the Knights took a full team down to Virginia, capturing a three-peat proved to be a menacing challenge that Rutgers was unable to surmount.
No. 68 ranked Villanova claimed the Colonial Relays championship with 148 points, while Bucknell and University of North Carolina-Wilmington tied for second with 70 points. The Knights totaled 51 points, ending in eighth place overall.
A championship title, however, does not diminish the other notable feats from the weekend.
Rutgers did not fail in producing top performances as the young team continued its adjustment to both the outdoor season and college level competition.
The first day of the event yielded subpar performances from the Knights.
But after the team collaborated at the end of day one, Rutgers was able to come back the second day with a fiery intensity that was evident on the scoreboard.
Freshman sprinter Bria Saunders captured ECAC qualifying times with her second place finish in the 200-meter. She also was a part of a 4x100-meter relay team of junior Kaprice James and freshmen Imani Beauliere and Oksana Sokolova that earned third place for an ECAC qualifying time.
Saunders finished just .2 seconds behind the event champion, rounding out a second place finish out of 106 competitors. Clocking in at 24.41, the freshman's time was a mere .01 ticks off of her personal record, one that she captured at the 2015 ECAC Indoor Championships in March.
The 4x100-meter relay squad of Saunders, James, Beauliere and Sokolova came in at 47.23 seconds, capturing a third place finish.
The 4x200-meter and 4x400-meter relays each ran season-bests at the Colonial Relays as well. The 4x200-meter team of Beauliere, James, Sokolova and senior mid-distance runner Christina Dibernardo claimed second place with its time of 1:41.08.
The 4x400-meter squad of Saunders, Dibernardo and sophomores Sarah Robbie and Drew Andrews clocked in at 3:54.51 to grab a ninth place finish.
Additionally, the spring medley relay of Saunders, James, Andrews and Robbie, along with the distance medley relay quartet of Dibernardo, sophomore Kaitlyn Bedard and seniors Felicia O’Donnell and Brianna Deming both took fourth place overall.
Rutgers also faired well in javelin events. Freshman Stacey Anning threw a distance of 39.89 meters (130 feet and 10 inches), ending in sixth place in the championship university division. Freshman teammate Kelsey McDonald captured second place in the university division with her throw of 39.31 meters (129 feet).
This weekend brought the importance of team strength and vitality to the forefront for the Knights.
“I think the take away is that if you don’t go out there and give everything you have and lay it all on the track, then you’re not going to get the results,” Saunders said. “I think that everyone needs to take away that regardless of how many events you have coming up in that day of competition, you need to take one race at a time and give all your energy into that one race. … Just go out there and leave it all on the track because at the end of the day there’s nothing you should be holding back on.”
Harnessing the lessons learned at the Colonial Relays along with the confidence gained, the Knights are progressing along with the outdoor season.
“I think this meet was like a stepping-stone for the outdoor season. We have to be able to come together as a team more,” James said. “We have to work as a team and be able to push each other to our best abilities.”
Revealing the abilities of the team that they may have not previously realized themselves, the Knights head back to the drawing board for two weeks of training to gear up for the Larry Ellis Invitational in Princeton on April 17.
Rallying with collective confidence will prove to be a crucial determining factor on the success of the team moving forward.
“We just need to deliver consistent performances at the same time so I think it gave them the confidence to know that they can do it,” said head coach James Robinson. “We have the capability to put down some good performances and good results when everyone’s on the same page, when everyone’s tuned in — I think they can see that. I think they see that the potential is there and I think that they know that they can do it when called upon.”
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