Rutgers open season with seventh place finish at Spiked Shoe Invitational
It was a long off-season for the Rutgers men's cross country, with the returning distance team not running a meet since at least May.
But that didn't stop the team from putting up some impressive times against tough competition Saturday.
The Scarlet Knights opened their season with a seventh-place finish at the Spiked Shoe Invitational, which was hosted by Penn State at University Park, Pennsylvania.
Rutgers finished the 5.2-mile race with an average team time of 27:45. Syracuse won the meet, followed by Cornell in second and Georgetown in third.
“It was good to get out there and compete again,” said head coach Mike Mulqueen.
The Knights had the option of going to a different meet — the Fordham Fiasco, which they usually run — but Mulqueen had a specific reason for competing here instead.
“The NCAA regional race will be on this course, so we wanted to see it,” he said.
There was also increased competition at Penn State, as defending national champion Syracuse was competing. The Orange ran away with the victory, producing six of the top-10 finishes and the entirety of the top three.
But despite the stiff competition, Rutgers still managed positive results.
Conor Murphy was the top performer for the Knights. The sophomore finished in 19th place overall with a time of 27:12.
“It felt great to get out there, run with the team again and get back in the swing of things against competitive schools,” Murphy said.
Sophomore Dominick Munson wasn't too far behind.
He finished in 21st with a time of 27:13, just a second behind his teammate.
“Coach put together a summer game plan,” Munson said of his preparation for the season. “I ran (a) lot more miles compared to last summer, so I was pretty prepared for the first race. I felt pretty good about my time, and more importantly, how I fared against some of the better competition.”
The three other Rutgers runners finished out the team's top five were senior Nick Price, who finished 36th with a time of 27:53, junior Luke Wiley finished 49th, with a time of 28:12, and junior Trent Brinkofski, who finished 50th with a time of 28:14.
Rounding out the Knights' squad was junior Alex Livernois, who finished 53rd, and freshman Jason Schweizer, who crossed the line 74th.
A goal for Rutgers would be to decrease the time between runners because on any given day anyone can outrun anyone else, Munson said.
“With our top seven guys, all of us can beat one another. We’re all very close,” he said. “On one day, our first guy could beat our seventh guy, and on another day, our seventh guy could beat our first guy. As a pack, we can run closer together, and if we can do that, we can beat the more competitive teams.”
This echoes the words of Mulqueen, who said that it is important to have a lower differential in future races. In the last meet, from the first to the seventh runner, it was a minute.
The Knights’ next meet is the Rider Invitational on Sept. 16 in Lawrence Township, New Jersey.
The season is still young, so Mulqueen still has a lot of time to get the best out of his runners and produce consistent results in the coming weeks.
“The outlook (for the season) is good, and the team is training hard,” he said. “We definitely raised some eyebrows,” Munson said. “Our team’s pretty young, so I think we can make some noise.”
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