Rutgers opens winter season with Princeton Invitational
Rutgers men’s track and field head coach Mike Mulqueen didn’t mince words when asked what his hopes were for the upcoming season.
“Our expectations for the indoor season are to be as competitive as possible in the IC4A and Big Ten Conference Championships,” he said. “We want to continue to send athletes to the NCAA Championships.”
The Scarlet Knights will start their pursuit of these goals when they head to the Princeton Invitational on Sunday.
This is the earliest the Knights have ever competed, as they usually don't start their season until January. Because of this, instead of the whole team competing, it is only the field athletes. What this means is that it will give certain athletes, especially the underclassmen, a chance to see how they stand performance-wise.
This is a perfect opportunity for new athletes to get their first shot at competition.
One of the athletes who will be competing on Sunday is Dylan Atland. The junior competed in decathlon events, but is coming off a meniscus surgery and will only be competing in the pole vault this season. He discussed how he and the team have been preparing for the first meet of the season.
“We’ve been practicing and working on our explosiveness,” he said. “We’ve been doing more competition against each other than we’ve done in the past, like 10-meter and 20-meter races. We do that to work on explosiveness. Since this meet is so early, we haven’t done as (many) technical things as we would have in the past. This meet is more like a baseline for where we’re going to start out and how we can improve.”
Atland also said that he thinks the team will try to do in Princeton.
“We’re not looking to set personal records,” he said. “You don’t want to peak this early, but you obviously don’t want to do badly. We’re looking to stay close to our current personal bests, and if we do better that’s great. But this meet is mainly just to see where we’re at.”
Even athletes who are not competing on Sunday, like senior Jermaine Griffith, are excited to see the Knights return to action.
“Everybody has been training hard this offseason and getting back in shape,” he said. “We’re excited to see what numbers we can put up and how we can run and jump.”
One of the most exciting things about this season is the freshman class that Rutgers landed. It brought in a lot of talent in multiple events such as jumpers Tobi Tella and Perry Christie, and Jason Campbell, who will compete in the throwing events. These are all athletes who can make an immediate impact for the Knights.
“It is a very talented freshmen class,” Mulqueen said “We are looking for them to contribute to the team as best as they can as they adjust to college competition. We believe they will."
And that freshman class will be a part of a squad that has lofty expectations for this season, competing in one of the toughest conferences in the country.
“We’re hoping to come out in the top three in the Indoor Big Ten Championships, and maybe even higher in the outdoor,” Atland said.
There is nothing that the team wants to do more than go out there and start the season off on the right foot. After months without competition, these athletes are ready to go back out there and show their stuff. Rutgers had a successful track season last year, both indoor and outdoor, and it is ready to prove why it will be a force to reckon with at every meet.
“We’re optimistic,” Atland said. “We’re a young squad with a deep freshman class. They look great. And us older guys are staying healthy. The training our coach has us doing is a lot different than what we’ve done in the past. Everyone looks really good and is excited to get out there and compete.”
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