Rutgers continues to see improvements heading into Big Ten Indoor Championships
Heading into last weekend's meets, the Rutgers men’s track and field team knew they would have to put in a lot of work.
“Coach told us that this was going to be a hard week of practice, so we got in a lot of quality workouts any time we could,” said freshman sprinter Nathaniel Gravesande.
The Scarlet Knights sent their sprinters to the Spire Indoor Invitational in Geneva, Ohio and the rest of the team to the David Hemery Valentines Invitational in Boston, Massachusetts, both of which were on Friday and Saturday. These were the final meets before the Big Ten Indoor Championships in two weeks, and the team delivered strong performances during each.
“Both meets were very productive,” said head coach Mike Mulqueen.
Mulqueen’s thoughts echoed those of his athletes, one of whom thought their performance was better than last week, when they took home the Metropolitan Championship and won seven events.
“We definitely made an improvement since the Metropolitan Championship,” Gravesande said. “The training definitely helped.”
Sophomore Izaiah Brown was a vital part of Rutgers' success this past weekend in Ohio. He surged to a 400-meter victory with a time of 45.67, just .05 seconds off of his personal best in the event. It was also a qualifying time for the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) Championships in March. Brown also ran with Gravesande, senior Brendan Jaeger and freshman Alonzo Aris into the Knights' record books with the school’s fastest indoor 4x400-meter-relay time. They ran the race in 3:08.42, which earned them third place behind Penn State and George Mason.
“The relay was actually really good,” Gravesande said. “We had a lot of competition, and it was different than what we’re used to. Usually we’re being chased, and this meet we were doing the chasing. I think that helped all of our times overall and helped break the record.”
On an individual level, Gravesande finished 12th in the 600-meter dash, setting a personal record in the event.
“I thought my overall performance was good,” he said. “I actually led the 600-meters until the end when I got tripped up, but I still set my personal record by two seconds, running 1:20 overall.”
In the field events in Boston, freshman Tobi Tella set a personal record in the triple jump with a distance of 15.42 meters good for third place. Tella also finished tenth in the long jump, jumping 6.70 meters.
“Tobi jumped well,” Mulqueen said. “He will jump far as long as he stays healthy.”
Tella’s teammate Chris Mazzacano tied for sixth in the pole vault with a distance of 4.7 meters.
Rutgers also got contributions in Boston from its distance runners. Junior Luke Wiley ran the mile in 4:41.14, an IC4A qualifying time. Wiley, along with sophomore Edward Zalek and freshmen Sean Martinek and Jason Schweizer posted an IC4A qualifying time of 10:06.39 in the distance relay.
“The distance medley ran very well,” Mulqueen said.
The Knights will spend the next two weeks preparing for the Big Ten Indoor Championship, the biggest meet of the season. What they accomplished this past weekend will go a long way toward how they perform there.
“This gives us a lot of confidence going into Big Ten (Indoor) Championships, knowing that we still have two full weeks to get quality training and get better,” Gravesande said. “I think that confidence is the most important thing heading into the Big Ten (Indoor) Championships, and hopefully we can come home with some titles.”
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