September 25, 2018 | ° F

Knights open season at home with Rutgers Invitational

The Rutgers Women’s Track and Field team starts its 2017 season off with the Rutgers Invitational at the Rutgers Indoor Practice & Conditioning Facility in Piscataway this weekend.

Field events will be held on Friday, while track events will occur on Saturday.

The Scarlet Knights host non-conference opponents at the meet, including Rider, Lafayette, Monmouth, Nassau Community College and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Following the Rutgers Invitational, the Knights will move on to three other meets during the month of January, including the Beantown Challenge, the UPenn Eight Team Select, and the Villanova Open.

The Knights have tempered expectations for this weekend’s indoor meet.

Junior Bria Saunders, who this season is one of six returning All-East athletes for Rutgers and was runner-up in the 200m event at the 2016 Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship, had a clear message for this weekend’s meet.

“This isn’t a meet where people need to go out there and become All-American. They need to leave the meet without any injuries,” she said. “Come back from break, and start off the season strong. Go out there, run against yourself and the clock, work hard, and come out injury free.”

Senior Bryanna Grant, who was the runner-up in the long jump at the 2016 Rutgers Invitational, noticed a change for the better in herself and the team.

“There has been a lot more self-confidence in working on technique (compared) to last year,” she said. “I have a lot more confidence now than I’ve had in the last few years.”

She shared similar sentiments with Saunders heading into this weekend’s meet.

“I don’t want the team to overthink [the meet],” Grant said. “We need to do our best, and go on from there.”

Last season, Rutgers saw only one athlete, Gabrielle Farquharson, advance to the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship in three different track events and earn All-American honors. Farquharson graduated after the 2016 season.

Sophomore Phyllis Gordon, last year’s 400m champion at the Rutgers Invitational, knows the Knights have big shoes to fill in losing Farquharson. Despite the young season, she set the bar high early on for the 2017 Knights.

“I want [our athletes] to make it further than we did last year and make it to the NCAA Outdoor and Indoor Track and Field Championships”

Saunders also acknowledged the loss of Farquharson and other recent graduates. However, she does not want that to define the nascent team.

“We have a lot of new girls, (we’re) a young team; my expectations are to go out there and continue being successful and great, and (not show) that we lost people who graduated last year and let everyone know what we’re capable of."

For updates on the Rutgers women's track and field team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Kevin Stapleton

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