Rutgers returns to State College for Mid-Atlantic Championships
As the season winds down, the Rutgers men’s cross-country team finds itself right back where it started.
The Scarlet Knights head to State College, Pennsylvania, to compete in the Mid-Atlantic Championship on Friday, the same spot where they ran in the Spiked Shoe Invitational for their first meet of the year. While that meet was only 5 kilometers long, this one will be twice that distance.
Rutgers is competing in its second straight championship meet and after finishing 11 out of 12 teams at the Big Ten Championship. It hopes to end up with a better result against only teams from its region.
After their performance at the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago, the Knights fell from ninth to 11th in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s Mid-Atlantic Regional rankings. A good performance on Friday will likely put Rutgers back in the top 10.
“Being ranked in the top 10 was something new for us,” said sophomore Conor Murphy. “We weren’t ranked in the top 10 in the previous few years, so if we place in the top 10 tomorrow, it will be a big confidence booster for us.”
Among the 25 other teams competing against the Knights are Georgetown and Penn, who are ranked 22nd and 28th in the USTFCCA’s latest poll, respectively.
Rutgers finished 13th in last year’s meet, paced by Murphy’s 51st-place finish. This year, Murphy hopes for a better result.
“I’d definitely like to place in the top 50,” he said.
Murphy, who was also the Knights’ top finisher at the Big Ten Championships, pointed out that since the team usually runs in 8-kilometer races, the increased distance would be challenging.
Another runner to pay attention to is Dominick Munson. The sophomore finished 98th in last year’s regional championship and 81st two weeks ago. He summed up the team’s attitude toward the upcoming meet.
“We’re excited to get out there and compete against other teams in the region,” he said. “Our training has really paid off throughout the year, and we’re excited to see what we can do.”
Munson also said his thoughts on Rutgers’ place in the rankings.
“I don’t trust the rankings,” he said. “Some teams have good days, some teams have bad days, and I think that we’re set up to have a good day. If we race as we should and as we can, I think we’ll place really well.”
One thing that the team has been working on since the Big Ten meet is running better together.
“We have been working on keeping our pack close together like we have been racing,” said head coach Mike Mulqueen.
A big difference between the Big Ten Championship and the Mid-Atlantic Regional is the competition level. While all the teams that the Knights competed against in the Big Ten Championship were ranked in the top 15 in their respective regions, Rutgers now races against the teams only in its region. And while there are some heavyweights like Georgetown and Penn, there are also many teams that the Knights have a good chance of beating.
“There are a lot of teams that we can compete with, and I think there are teams that can’t compete with us,” Munson said. “The biggest difference between regional and Big Ten is that we’re in the mix and there are teams that are looking at us and know that they can’t beat us. The Big Ten has depth all the way down, which is something that the regional doesn’t have.”
Rutgers is now in the homestretch of what has been a successful season thus far. Now the only thing left for the team to do is to go out there and prove its resilience.
“We’ve put in the work all throughout the season until now,” Murphy said. “If we can deliver, I think we will see the results that we want to.”
For updates on the Rutgers volleyball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.