Rutgers bursts into Metropolitan Indoor Championships as two-time defending champions
The Rutgers men’s track and field team has spent the last month racking up wins against the competition and demonstrating that it is one of the top-tier teams in the Northeast. But this weekend, it will have to prove that it deserves that moniker once again.
The Scarlet Knights return to the Ocean Breeze Track and Field Athletic Complex for the third straight week to compete at the Metropolitan Indoor Championships this Friday and Saturday.
Rutgers heads to the meet as two-time defending champions, having won in both 2015 and 2016. And while the Knights hope to make it a “three-peat,” they know that they will have to give it their all in order to accomplish that task.
“It is a good conference with good teams, so we just want to compete well to give ourselves a chance to win,” said head coach Mike Mulqueen.
Rutgers has shown it is capable of winning many events, and the team has many athletes who are ready to show their skills on the biggest stage of the season so far. Some, like senior sprinter Jermaine Griffith, have concrete goals for themselves and their teammates.
“I definitely want to win the 500 (meter), and hopefully the guys on our 4x400 that are banged up can do a lot of rehab and be good to go by this weekend,” Griffith said. "We should be able to come out with the win.”
Despite being a senior, Griffith only got his first taste of the Metropolitan Championships last year. And he made quite a first impression, winning the 500-meter dash and contributing to Rutgers’ 4x400 relay win.
Sophomore Izaiah Brown will also look to stand out in Staten Island. He won the 400-meter dash in the Championships last year, and is ready to take a step forward his second time around. He is a regular on the 4x400 team unlike last year, so he has more opportunities to get points for the Knights.
And while both Brown and Griffith will shine in the spotlight, Tobi Tella is the athlete that fans should be keeping their eyes on. The freshman is enjoying a breakout season, winning an event in all meets so far. He will be competing in both the long and triple jumps this weekend, hoping to earn as many points as he can for Rutgers.
He described what has been going through his mind leading up to his first big meet at the collegiate level.
“I always hope for a good placement, but that’s not usually what I focus on when I’m jumping,” Tella said. “I just go for a distance I know I can hit. I have to make sure I don’t forget everything I did right in the long jump and everything I’ve been practicing in the triple jump. I haven’t been able to work out all of the kinks in my triple jump technique, but that’s what this week of practice has been dedicated to. If that goes well, then I’ll be able to improve by a lot. I don’t see how I can’t place well.”
Tella also outlined his personal goals for the meet, stressing that he was more focused on himself rather than out-jumping the competition.
“My goals are more numbers to hit than a place on the podium,” Tella said. “If I can get those then I most likely will place, but I would like to get back over 50 feet in the triple jump and do everything I can to get over 24 feet in the long jump. Those are the positions that I want to be in before the Big Ten Championship.”
The Knights have an opportunity to show that they are one of the best teams in the region, not just to its Metropolitan competitors, but to teams in the Big Ten as well. If Rutgers performs well like it did the last two years, then the team will be ready to take on the best in its conference.
“Our team’s in a good place right now,” Tella said. “We have a lot of the numbers to put in a position to win it if everyone shows up and does what they can. All of us are capable of standing out among this group of competition.”
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