July 18, 2019 | 74° F

Rutgers makes first appearance at Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown

The Rutgers women’s cross country team will be at Franklin Park in Boston, Massachusetts on Friday for the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown five-kilometer race hosted by Boston College.

The Scarlet Knights will be looking to build on their initial success of the season after finishing second overall at the Lehigh Invitational earlier this month.

This will mark Rutgers’ first appearance at the Boston College race. Last year’s Beantown champion, No. 7 Providence, earned an impressive 25 points overall for its second consecutive Beantown title – its third since 2013.

The Knights will be facing notable competition from around the Big Ten, ACC, Big East and Ivy League on Friday.

Last time out, Rutgers had three athletes place in the top-10 at the Lehigh Invitational’s six-kilometer race.

Sophomore Nadia Saponara placed eighth overall and was the runner-up among the top performers for the Knights’ squad.

Heading into a shorter five-kilometer race, Saponara felt confident about Rutgers’ momentum heading into Boston despite facing varied competition.

“We’re going to be racing more of the teams we’ll be up against at Big Ten and (NCAA) Regionals. It will be a better indicator of how we are against teams both in and out of the conference,” Saponara said.

Saponara and her peers will be facing top-rated schools in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) like No. 7 Providence, No. 18 Indiana, No. 25 Georgetown and No. 28 Harvard.

Though she acknowledged that Rutgers cannot get ahead of themselves this early in the season, the sophomore emphasized the importance of the Beantown race as a benchmark for everyone on the roster.

“It will still be early in the season. A lot could change after this next 5k. But it will be a much better indicator of how everybody’s doing,” she said. “It will give us more opportunity to get us a lot closer together and secure our top-six as a group.”

Head coach James Robinson, who was pleased to see his team progress at Lehigh, knows that Beantown presents a great proving ground for his team.

Robinson hopes the shorter race will give the Knights the boost they need to propel as a team towards the front of the pack.

“It’s going to be a really great opportunity in Boston for our athletes. We have great ACC, Ivy League and other competition too. It will be a good measure,” Robinson said. “It gives our athletes an opportunity to 'let it rip' since they just came off a 6k and are coming down into this 5k. It gives the team an opportunity to go out there and be aggressive.”

Robinson also remarked at the importance of the freshmen on his roster, especially as they played a vital role at their first meet of the season.

He understands that incoming recruiting classes could significantly advance both the cross country and track and field programs. So far, the early signs of growth have Robinson optimistic.

“We had three freshmen in the top six at Lehigh. It’s a great sign. The freshmen came in and contributed right away. They made the mark in the first competition,” he said. “I’m looking for them to get better and get more experience. The heightened level of competition this weekend will give them an opportunity to see how they (compare).”

Though Robinson is missing a few of the Rutgers' top-runners in the month of September like senior Allyson Black, he remained steadfast in the opportunity for his squad to start sticking out within the Big Ten.

For his hope to come to fruition, that effort must continue at the Beantown race.

“We’re missing some of our top runners for this cross country season. We really miss Allyson Black, who was our number one runner for most of the past two years,” he said. “Once some of the (veterans) come back into the mix healthy by the end of the year, we should have our best showing we’ve had in the Big Ten. We have an opportunity to do that.”

For updates on the Rutgers women's cross country team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Kevin Stapleton

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