Rutgers opens outdoor season with phenomenal performance
As the calendar turns from winter to spring, it signals the shift from the indoor to the outdoor season in track and field. And the Rutgers men’s track and field team started off its outdoor season with a bang.
The Scarlet Knights produced multiple winners, personal records and Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) qualifying times at the Bulls Invitational in Tampa, Florida, on Thursday and Friday.
“It was one of the best opening outdoor meets I can remember,” said head coach Mike Mulqueen. “We set a lot of personal bests that will put us in good standing to get into NCAA qualifying. It was a good outdoor debut for us.”
Sophomore Christopher Mirabelli won the javelin throw with a distance of 69.92 meters, a meet record, as well as an IC4A distance, In his first meet of 2016. All of his five throws exceeded 62 meters, and his record-setting throw was 4 meters farther than his closest competitor.
“I’m much more experienced than last year,” Mirabelli said. “I know how to be mentally ready for competition. Coming off a big year last year, I just wanted to come into this meet and stay relaxed. My first couple of throws weren’t the best, but I’ve learned how to maintain a stable mind during competition, and I had a pretty good season opener.”
Senior Joseph Velez also set a meet record in the hammer throw. His distance of 63.17 meters beat out Princeton’s Adam Kelly for the event win. It was also an IC4A qualifying distance.
“I was just trying to get some good rhythm and good timing down,” Velez said. "I was struggling a little bit, but I managed to get a good throw out there, which is encouraging. I’m in better shape than I was last year.”
The team performed as a whole after their performances during the indoor season, according to Velez.
“We came out strong," he said. "It was exactly what we wanted to do — continue the improvements we made in the indoor season and bring them outdoor, and we’re doing that well.”
In the track events, the Knights also performed well.
Junior Jermaine Griffith produced an IC4A time by winning the 400-meter dash with a time of 46.52 seconds. His time was a second faster than any other racer.
Senior Rajee Dunbar produced two IC4A times. He finished second in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.11 seconds, which was a personal record. He also finished the 100-meter dash in fourth with a time of 10.68 seconds.
Senior Kyle Holder finished third in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 52.42 seconds, which was both an IC4A qualifying mark and a personal best.
In his first outdoor meet in his collegiate career, freshman Chais Hill finished second in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.37 seconds, good for an IC4A mark.
Sophomore Morgan Murray and junior Brendan Jaeger both produced personal bests and IC4A marks in the 800-meter hurdles. Murray finished third with a time of 1:53.16, and Jaeger was right behind him at 1:53.76
The Rutgers relay team won the 4x100 meter relay, as Dunbar, Hill, Griffith and senior Emeka Eze produced an IC4A time of 41.12 seconds.
“We did really well,” Mirabelli said, summing up the team’s performance. “We really opened up well in the outdoor season. I think we can really make a statement in the Big Ten.”
Rutgers’ next meet is the Colonial Relays on April 1st and 2nd, in Williamsburg, New Jersey.
The performances in the first outdoor meet will go a long way towards subsequent performances, Mulqueen said.
The head coach said he was pleased with good performances early on and will use this meet to help dictate how future practices will run this season.
“We’re just going to keep doing the same things we were doing before,” Velez said. “We’re just going to keep sticking to the plan that we had before. It’s a plus that we had a good start, but we’re looking for even bigger things during the championship season.”
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