Rutgers improves times from last year with higher finish in Princeton Invitational

<p>Senior Jaimin Vekaria cracked the top 50 with a time of 25:00 at the Princeton Invitational on Friday and Saturday.</p>

Senior Jaimin Vekaria cracked the top 50 with a time of 25:00 at the Princeton Invitational on Friday and Saturday.

Sometimes the final results don’t tell the whole story.

For any sporting event, it is easy to become completely caught up in the final results — so much that a great individual or team performance can be forgotten about if the end result is not a victory.

So for a team coming off of its second top-three finish of season, it would be easy to look at the final results of Saturday’s Princeton Invitational and dismiss the Rutgers men’s cross country team’s 11th-place finish as nothing more than that.

But by looking past the 11th-place mark and putting their performance into perspective, it's easy to find that the Scarlet Knights put on one of their better overall team performances of the season.

The Knights posted their best time of the season by finishing in 25:13.2, and five of the team's top seven runners recorded personal best times in Saturday’s meet.

The top five runners also had a team-best performance for the season by finishing in 25:25, those same runners were separated by just 25 seconds and the team's top seven were only separated by 50 seconds, both accomplishments signifying second-best marks this season.

At last year’s Princeton Invitational, the Knights finished with an average team time of 26:12 on its way to placing 25th overall in the race. The four runners that competed in the race last year significantly improved on their times. 

With a focus on improving heading into the meet, Rutgers was satisfied with the outcome knowing it did just that.

“We definitely improved a lot,” senior Jaimin Vekaria said. “Coach told us just to kind of go out there and compete hard and race hard just because it’s going to be such a big field. There was just a small little focus on where we should place, we wanted to finish around the top half. So we achieved that goal and then the focus was just to race fast and we did that.”

Sophomore Luke Wiley paced Rutgers by finishing in 25:00, good for 43rd overall. Vekaria was right behind Wiley with a 25:04.3 finish time, placing him 50th overall in the race.

Fresh off of being named the Big Ten’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week, sophomore Trent Brinkofski finished third among his teammates in 25:16.2, more than a one-minute improvement from his time last year.

“Our one through six finished faster than our No. 1 did last year at that meet,” Brinkofski said. “Definitely a big improvement, still looking to improve more, but we had our first through six under 25:30, which is pretty solid for what we’re used to.”

The Princeton Invitational featured 21 teams from all around the Northeast. No. 12 Villanova, Penn and the University of Guelph from Ontario, Canada, claimed the top three spots.

With their 11th-place finish, the Knights were able to edge out the other two ranked opponents at the meet. No. 27 Princeton finished 13th and No.10 Georgetown finished 14th.

“It was a good feeling,” Vekaria said. “I actually didn’t even realize we beat Georgetown and Princeton, cause we were looking at some of the teams ahead of us like Duquesne and Temple, which we’ll see back in the Regionals. We were just happy to see that everyone dropped their times significantly from last year and it just kind of shows how much we’ve grown over the course of the year and how much stronger we’ve gotten.”

Following a strong showing at the Princeton Invitational, Rutgers will now have two weeks to prepare for the Big Ten Championships in Chicago, an event it finished last in during its inaugural season in the conference in 2014. 

The Knights are gearing up for two strong weeks of training in advance of facing a high level of competition at their conference championship meet.

“These next two weeks are just going to be about putting good workouts under our belts and getting ready to compete at a much higher level than we’re used to competing at,” Wiley said. “So it’s all about getting the good workouts in, getting the good recovery days in, lifting and doing whatever we can to better ourselves.”

For more updates on the Rutgers men’s cross country team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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