Rutgers finishes sixth at Princeton Invitational
After finishing second at the Metropolitan Championship last week, the Rutgers men’s cross country team looked to take a step up in their final tune-up meet before one of the biggest meets of the year.
And while the results didn’t look good upon first glance, the team produced an all-around solid performance, with multiple runners recording their fastest times this season.
The Scarlet Knights finished sixth at the Princeton Invitational on Saturday in their last meet before the Big Ten Championship. They improved on their performance at last year’s event, where they finished 11th. They also improved their average five-mile time by 20 seconds.
“I thought we ran great at Princeton,” said head coach Mike Mulqueen. “Our improvement from last year to this year was very significant.”
Ivy League schools dominated the meet, as Columbia finished first and Yale and Penn rounded out the top three.
Sophomore Conor Murphy paced the squad on Saturday by finishing 20th with a time of 24:42.9, his fastest time so far this season.
Sophomore Dominick Munson joined Murphy in the top 30 by finishing in 25th. His time of 24:44.7 was his best so far this season.
“I was really excited about my performance, but I was really encouraged on how the team performed, especially since it's the last meet before Big Ten," Murphy said. "We put together a really good race. To average sub-25 as a team is really solid, and it definitely puts us in contention to move up in the Big Ten a couple spots.”
And the personal-best times did not stop there. Senior Nick Price finished in 38th, junior Trent Brinkofski finished in 45th and junior Alex Livernois finished in 60th. They all crossed the finish line with their fastest times so far this season.
Brinkofski attributed the lower placements to the better competition that the team faced this week, but was still satisfied with both his and the team’s performance.
“When we race at the Mets, there’s a select group of teams, but when we race at Princeton, there’s a lot of different teams that we don’t face in local meets,” Brinkofski said. “There was better competition which caused me to finish a bit lower, but I ran faster than I had before. But I was happier with the team result because we had a team average of 24:55 and I was the fourth guy. If I’m the fourth guy and I’m running 25 minutes flat, that means that we’re running really well as a team.”
Brinkofski also admitted that he runs better on hilly courses like last week’s Van Cortlandt Park, but it doesn’t take away from his good performance this week.
Now the team’s attention turns toward the Big Ten Championships in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, which is arguably the biggest meet of the season.
They have two weeks to prepare, and after the results that they have produced in the last few meets, the sky’s the limit for them in Minnesota. The Big Ten is one of the toughest conferences in cross-country, and Rutgers is putting the rest of the teams on notice with its consistency and its performances that are improving from week to week. At this point, the best the team can do is just keep training and building confidence.
“We know Big Ten’s going to be faster than any race we’ve seen this year, so running Princeton this week was a good tune-up because we ran faster than we’ve ever ran this year,” Brinkofski said. “Going out that fast and trying to maintain that pace is tough, but this was a great workout because this is what we’re going to feel like at Big Ten. Every team in the Big Ten is extremely good, so it’s good to see improvement, and we’re definitely stronger than we’ve ever been before.”
The team is currently ranked 12th out of 40 teams in their region, and competing against some of the best schools in the country should definitely give their ranking a boost.
“All of the teams in the region are taking notice that we are putting together pretty solid performances,” Munson said. “We’re definitely becoming a threat.”
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