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Rutgers opens up championship season with Metropolitan meet in Bronx

The Rutgers women’s cross country team will start off the championship portion of its season on Friday with participation in the Metropolitan Championship 5-kilometer race hosted by Fordham at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York.

The Scarlet Knights will look to earn their third championship since 2014. The team’s last victory at the Metropolitan race came in 2015.

Rutgers will face notable competition including last year’s champion Fordham, Manhattan and the USTFCCCA Northeast Region’s No. 3 team Columbia, which had previously earned four consecutive Metropolitan titles from 2010-2013.

At last season’s Metropolitan 5-kilometer, the Knights placed third behind champion Fordham (41) and runner-up Manhattan (62) with 77 team points overall.

Expectations for this year’s race are high, especially as Rutgers progresses toward the Big Ten Championship at the end of the month.

Sophomore Stephanie Mauer, who last year placed 28th in the race and has already posted two personal-records (PR) this season, felt confident about her squad’s chances heading into the Bronx on Friday.

“We’re going in really determined. We know there’s going to be a lot of tough competition with Manhattan and Fordham,” Mauer said. “They both want it as much as we do. It’s going to come down to who really wants it more.”

Mauer realizes the importance in besting both Fordham and Manhattan this weekend, as they are both prominent programs in the USTFCCCA Northeast Region.

A victory this weekend would likely propel the Knights even further in the USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Regional Rankings, the next of which will be released on Oct. 16.

“We’re really confident especially after the Paul Short Run. A lot of us had PRs and dropped a minute or more from the last race we had,” she said. “It just shows how much our workouts are paying off. We’re going into championship season confident.”

Fellow sophomore Emma Bergman placed 16th overall in last year’s championship 5-kilometer. The second-year runner shared her thoughts on the team’s development since the Paul Short Run at the end of September.

“We’re really confident for the coming races. Paul Short really showed just how much our workouts have been helping us in our improvements so far,” Bergman said. “We’ve been going hard in our workouts. We’re just going to keep attacking these courses and try to stay together as a pack, pushing our limits and passing our boundaries.”

Bergman, who was also on the team when Rutgers was regionally ranked last season, expressed similar sentiments on her team’s recent USTFCCCA ranking.

“We were really excited to see we made it into the regional rankings. We just want to keep improving and see what we can do,” she said. “If we could maybe get into the top-ten that would be awesome. ‘Keep moving up’ is the goal.”

Bergman’s strategy for Friday in the Bronx remained relatively conservative, but the sophomore is determined her team’s rigorous preparation will help spring them to another team title before they head into Big Ten and NCAA championship races later this season.

“We’re going to just work on attacking the course really hard. It’s a really hilly course and we’ve been focusing on those kinds of workouts,” she said. “We’re going to try to stick together as a pack and put as many girls up front as we can. Keep moving up, focusing, and try to come out on top."

For updates on the Rutgers women's cross country and track and field teams, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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