Rutgers earns two individual gold medals at Big Ten Championships
The Rutgers men’s track and field team went to the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships this past weekend with high hopes.
It faced off against fierce competition and came away with some great individual performances.
The Scarlet Knights finished in ninth out of 12 teams in Geneva, Ohio, with 40 team points. It was a big improvement over last year’s conference championship, when they finished in last with only 2 points.
Head coach Mike Mulqueen said he is very proud of his team despite their lackluster overall finish, and pointed to a specific reason for the Knights' improvement over last year.
“Many of our athletes achieve their lifetime bests, or seasonal bests, even if they did not score points,” he said. “We competed with more confidence than last year. That helped a lot with our improvements.”
Rutgers' massive jump from last year was in no small part due to the individual performances by many athletes, who set school records and recorded personal bests to pace the team.
Freshman sprinter Izaiah Brown stood out for the Knights, as he won the 400-meter dash with a time of 45.62 seconds.
Brown broke his own school record of 46.61 seconds, which he set at the Rutgers Invitational in January. Even more impressive was the fact his time was the fastest indoor time in the country this season.
Brown said the pressure he faced at his first ever conference championship meet was unlike anything he had experienced before.
“I was freaking out,” he said. “It was new territory. Everyone I was running against was new for me. I’d never seen them run and I didn’t know what they were capable of.”
Brown also said he was happy to have contributed to Rutgers’ improvement over last year.
“We came out here and did better than last year,” he said. “We did a lot better as a team overall … I’m happy I’m able to contribute points to a better standing for Rutgers.”
Graduate senior Corey Crawford was the only other Rutgers athlete to win an event in Geneva.
Two weeks after setting the facility record at the Valentine Invitational in Boston, the long jumper delivered again.
His top jump of 7.69 meters was good enough for first place in the event, beating out Wisconsin’s Zach Ziemek’s second-place jump of 7.65 meters.
Crawford was competing in his first Big Ten Championship. He sat out last year with an injury, and chose to return this year for a shot at the Big Ten competitors.
“It was very relieving,” Crawford said on his victory. “It was a very stressful event for me, being my first Big Ten championship I was competing in. It meant a lot to me. This was the reason I came back and got my redshirt last year. I wanted to come back and be a Big Ten Champion, and that was the result I had.”
Crawford said he changed up his preparation leading up to the event, as he was limited in practice due to injury.
“I had to prepare myself more mentally for the competition, and go back to my old ways of doing things,” he said. “But I definitely was able to work through some stuff, which was very important for me.”
Mulqueen said the performances of Crawford and Brown were outstanding achievements.
“(Corey) Crawford and (Izaiah) Brown were terrific,” Mulqueen said. “Both are national class athletes and they competed like that. Anytime you can win a major conference is a great accomplishment.”
Despite the fact no other Rutgers athlete won an event, there were still many other accomplishments made by Knights, including school records and personal best times.
Senior Jermaine Griffith finished second in the 600-meter dash. His time of 1:16.12 was a Rutgers' indoor record.
Freshman Chais Hill finished seventh in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.97 seconds. It was a personal best time in the event for the Clemonton, New Jersey, native.
Senior Emeka Eze finished sixth in the triple jump with a distance of 14.90 meters. He also finished sixth in the long jump with a top distance of 7.34 meters.
The Knights return to action this weekend at the IC4A Championships in Boston, Massachusetts.
Crawford and Brown will not go to the event, as they prepare for the NCAA Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Alabama, the week after.
Crawford said he hopes to improve on his performance last year and how his teammate has the potential to dominate the field.
“The last time I was there, I was runner-up in the long jump and that left a bitter taste in my mouth," he said. "Hopefully I can go there, fix some things in this next week-and-a-half of practice … (Izaiah and I) are definitely looking forward to going out there. If (Izaiah) can do what he did today, he could win the whole thing.”
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