Intensity increases for Rutgers as season progresses
As it enters championship season later this week, the Rutgers women’s cross country team is looking to overcome a transitional plateau after starting the season off placing second overall at the Lehigh Invitational 6-kilometer race in early September.
Since that race in Bethlehem, the Scarlet Knights have seen several bright spots from young athletes on the roster but have mostly fallen short of establishing themselves as a dynamic Big Ten force among Division I competition.
After the Lehigh Invitational, Rutgers went on to the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown 5-kilometer race hosted by Boston College.
Despite coming out with four personal-records (PRs) in Boston, Rutgers placed 19th out of 22 collegiate teams with a staggering 521 points.
Following the effort at Boston College, Rutgers went on to the 44th-annual Paul Short Run 6-kilometer race.
Having just completed the course at the Lehigh Invitational only four weeks prior, expectations were high despite racing against varied competition which included several top-ranked U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) teams.
Again, while the Knights grabbed seven PRs in Bethlehem, they placed 37th overall out of 42 Division I teams with 922 points.
But little victories involving progression are important for the underclassmen on the Rutgers squad, who are slowly forming the nucleus of the roster.
The team is relying heavily on its six freshmen and five sophomore runners to bring relevance sooner-than-later to the rebuilding program.
The one consistent bright spot among the freshmen has been Olympia Martin.
Martin has been the top runner for the Knights in each of their first three races this season.
Her accolades so far this season include finishing seventh overall at the Lehigh Invitational and posting a sub-22-minute time at the Paul Short 6-kilometer race, where she placed 127th overall (21:31).
Martin and her team's efforts in September even resulted in a USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Regional ranking at No. 15 for the Scarlet Knights.
But Martin can only take Rutgers so far. The Knights need additional underclassmen to step up and do so soon.
The 2017 campaign has now progressed into the championship portion of the season.
The next race is the Metropolitan Championship 5-kilometer in the Bronx, New York — a contest where Rutgers has earned two titles since 2014 with its last coming in 2015.
The pressure will undoubtedly be on the Knights to not only perform well but to place in at least the top-3.
Following the Bronx race, the competition will only heighten as the team prepares for the Big Ten Championships at the end of the month.
Head coach James Robinson said in September that he “hopes to have (the) best showing” the team’s had in the Big Ten by the end of the year.
In order for that dream to come to fruition, the team needs to start with another team title at the Metropolitan 5-kilometer and a staunch showing at the Big Ten Championship.
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