Rutgers finds stride at Larry Ellis Invitational
PRINCETON — The Rutgers women’s track and field team made its best effort to gain momentum while rounding out into the middle of the outdoor season in venturing to Princeton for the Larry Ellis Invitational.
During a sunny weekend at Weaver Stadium, the Scarlet Knights were able to post several top performances across the board.
Rutgers kicked off the weekend on Friday with a successful display of prowess in the javelin from Kelsey McDonald, who set a new personal record and took a second place finish.
With an ECAC qualifying distance of 42.55 meters (139 feet and seven inches), the freshman surpassed her previous record of 40.32 meters from her debut performance at the Bulls Invitational in March.
“I’m really happy with my performance,” McDonald said. “It’s actually my first (personal record) as a college athlete, so I was really happy.”
Rutgers kept the ball rolling on Saturday, putting up several top marks in track events.
Drew Andrews finished in the top eight out of 35 competitors in the preliminary round of the 100-meter hurdles. Advancing to the finals, the sophomore took a seventh place finish, clocking in at 14.57 seconds.
Freshman Bria Saunders saw success in the 200-meter dash, setting a new personal best with her ECAC qualifying time of 24.14. The sprinter also finished seventh in the 100-meter dash, coming in at 12.09.
The Rutgers relay teams were able to earn top finishes as well.
The 4x100-meter relay team of junior Alayna Famble, Saunders, junior Kaprice James and freshman Oksana Sokolova took third place racing an ECAC time of 46.90 seconds.
Additionally, sophomores Kaitlyn Bedard and Ellen Miller paired with freshmen Deanna DiLandro and Celine Mazzi in the 4x400-meter relay to clock in at 3:54.55 for a fourth place finish.
DiLandro also took third in the 800-meter race with a time of 2:12.59, while sophomore teammate Sarah Robbie followed closely behind for a fifth place finish at 2:15.17.
In field events for Saturday, sophomore Bryanna Grant placed fifth in the triple jump, leaping a distance of 11.87 meters (38 feet and 11.5 inches).
Although the performances came in a mixed bag, the experience gained from the Larry Ellis Invitation will help prepare the Knights for the future competition they’ll face as the outdoor season continues.
The team is positive in its outlook on the sunny weekend they spent in the Garden State.
“I think it was overall just a great experience to be competing with so many good schools, and being able to just go out there and give it my all,” McDonald said.
There is still a long road of improvement ahead.
Head coach James Robinson has expectations for his team that have not yet been met this season. He emphasizes the need for the Knights to collectively come out strong and post top individual marks to reach overall team success.
“I thought we could’ve been a lot better. I think we still need a lot of improvement as a team across the board,” Robinson said. “We have a couple of sparks here and there in different event areas, but overall they just need to perform their best together. That’s a challenge of a young team.”
Being a team that has twice the amount of freshman and sophomores (22) than juniors and seniors (11) with several injured and redshirted athletes, Rutgers has been struggling to rally as a team at its meets throughout the season.
The Knights are sturdy in their capabilities –– but the execution is shaky.
Building the bridge between these two key components within their events will be crucial in paving the way to both individual and team success.
“There were definitely some bright spots, so the kids know they’re in shape. They just need to execute races better and their technique better in their different events, but they’re definitely in good condition,” Robinson said. “We have to go back to our form and see where we can improve from a technical standpoint … so they can come back to their next opportunity and do better.”
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