Rutgers returns to defend its title at Colonial Relays
As defending champions, the Rutgers women’s track and field team returns to Zable Stadium in Williamsburg, Virginia, April 3 for the Colonial Relays with a new team looking to uphold an old legacy.
Capturing the team title the last two years in a row, the Scarlet Knights were the first to repeat as champions at William and Mary’s Colonial Relays in the event’s 49-year history.
At last year’s meet, the Rutgers took the title with a 35-point margin of victory and set event benchmarks in the sprint medley and 4x200-meter relay.
Among the Knights who helped the team reach this notable feat is former Rutgers standout Asha Ruth, who remains to be one of the most decorated women’s track and field athletes in program history.
A four-time All-American, Ruth holds conference titles in the long jump from the 2014 American Indoor Championships and the Big East Outdoor Championships in 2012 and 2013. She also won 2012 Metropolitan Championship outdoor titles in the 200-meter dash and the 4x100-meter relay, and earned indoor titles in the 200-meter dash and 4x400-meter relay in 2014.
In addition to Ruth, current redshirt senior Gabrielle Farquharson also helped the spring medley relay, the 4x200-meter relay, and the 4x100-meter relay teams capture first place finishes at last year’s Colonial Relays.
The Knights will not have the luxury of standing on the shoulders of those giants this time around..
“Trying to do a three-peat is going to be very difficult with this group,” said head coach James Robinson. “It’s a young group so, you know, they have to forge their own identity. They can’t live off of what we did in the past but only try to be better in the future which is now.”
Though Rutgers will take a full team, the Knights have to contest the drawback of several injured and redshirted players. However, the veterans who participated in to the successive capture of the Colonial Relays titles haven’t all concluded their careers on the banks just yet.
Among those remaining is senior Christina Dibernardo, who captured the 800-meter title at last year’s meet and sophomore Bryanna Grant who took fourth in the triple jump. Sophomore Nicole Nicholas was also a member of the sprint medley team that took the gold and the 4x400-meter squad that earned an ECAC qualifying time.
Steam has been building for Rutgers with the outdoor season underway.
Dibernardo and Nicholas were both part of the 4x400-meter relay that posted a season best time last weekend at the Raleigh Relays. Additionally, Dibernardo was a member of the 4x200-meter squad that clocked in a fifth place finish.
Grant began her outdoor season with a bang, capturing the triple jump title at the Bulls Invitational on March 20.
As the Knights gear up to face their next challenge, they look to both continue the successes earned last year and improve their performances of the season.
But the veteran Rutgers athletes are not the only ones looking to do damage this weekend.
Coming off of the Raleigh Relays where freshman javelin thrower Stacey Anning highlighted the Knights’ performances by obliterating her previous personal record by over 13 feet, the freshman heads into the next field of competition with an acute focus propelling her forward.
“I’m not really thinking about other meets,” Anning said. “I just take it one meet at a time.”
Being a predominantly young team with double the amount of freshman and sophomores (22) than juniors and seniors (11), the young Knights are adamant in their zeal to fill in the shoes of their predecessors.
Aware that the team title will not be handed to them by any means, Robinson emphasizes the necessity of harnessing individual strengths in order to lead the team to victory.
“They’ve got to recognize that no matter what year you’re in, you have to go out and compete. We’re young, we know we’re young, but we’ve got to focus on individually getting better in our respective events in order for the team to do well,” Robinson said. “They have to just go out there and compete, regardless of what their year is. That’s what the focus is — making your adjustments individually.”
The Knights are looking to make team strides through individual performances.
Taking this into account, Rutgers is eager to unite with the hopes of coming out on top once again.
“Everyone has to step up and come together,” said freshman sprinter Bria Saunders. “We have to basically use what we have and we still are a very strong team, so if everyone just comes together and does what they can, you know, trusts their training, I think we’ll have a good weekend.”
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