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RU finds transition year useful

With the District II Championships concluding last weekend, the season officially ended for the Rutgers men’s and women’s cross country teams.

No Scarlet Knight qualified for the NCAA Championships this weekend in Indianapolis, but the Knights’ performances this year have the coaches excited for the future.

In a transition year for both teams, next year’s arrival in the Big Ten holds promise.

With the women, head coach James Robinson was pleased with how the season finished at the District II Championships.

“We had seven personal bests and ran faster than last month on the same course,” Robinson said.

Although Rutgers didn’t rank regionally this year, the team’s fall performance satisfied Robinson.

“We got out to a slow start this year but really picked it up as the season went on,” Robinson said.

After struggling in September, the Knights adjusted to the coaches’ training program and the results showed over the past month.

“Everyone ran personal bests in the last three meets, and you really can’t ask for more,” Robinson said.

One year in the AAC did not give the coaching staff adequate time to adjust to the competition, but Robinson said the team met its preseason goals.

What makes the future promising for the women’s team is its relative youth, along with the return of two key runners.

The only departing Knight is Rashmi Singh, the team’s senior leader. Seniors Ashley Deckert and Brianna Deming return to the team next year after redshirting this fall.

Sophomore Paige Senatore, who had an impressive fall season, will look to continue to improve in the offseason.

The young Knights, who earned valuable experience this year, look to improve as a whole.

“When you add [Decker and Deming] into the mix with all the young ladies that gained experience this year, we’re going to be a pretty formidable team,” Robinson said.

Next year’s mix of youth and experience could be ready to compete with the top teams in the Big Ten.

The men’s side also looks to improve this offseason.

They lose two key contributors in seniors Chris Banafato and Curtis Richburg. Both were top runners for Rutgers this season.

But the Knights’ nucleus remains intact next year.

The Knights will heavily rely on juniors Chris DeFabio and Anthony Horten and sophomore Jamin Vekaria next fall.

Freshmen Nick Price and Sam Habib came on strong as the season progressed and are also expected to contribute next season.

Rutgers’ lone AAC season is over, but the teams have much to be excited about entering the Big Ten.

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