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Rutgers gets 12 top-10 finishes in Princeton

The Rutgers women’s track and field team had a bounce-back performance this weekend at the Sam Howell Invitational held in Princeton, New Jersey. It was the first time this outdoor season that the team has competed in its home state, and served as the closest that the team will get to a home meet this season.

Last week, the Scarlet Knights finished with two top-10 performances individually and set a new school record in the steeplechase at the Florida Relays, which featured dozens of collegiate programs, including seven ranked in the top 25 in the country.

A big theme last week for Rutgers was the difficult weather conditions, including rain showers and heavy winds, which had a major impact on team performance. Bad weather reared its ugly head again this week as the originally two-day Sam Howell Invitational was cut down to a single day due to fear of snow showers on Saturday. 

But the Knights made the best of a difficult situation yet again, as they put together several impressive performances on Friday. Rutgers delivered 12 top-10 finishes this week, a dramatic improvement over last week, and claimed two event titles, as well.

Head coach James Robinson was certainly pleased with the results his team produced.

“I thought the performance was good,” Robinson said. ”It wasn’t perfect, but we had enough strong individual performances to carry us throughout the day. So overall, it was a good performance by the team.”

In the long jump, junior Oniesha Clarke continued what has a been an impressive outdoor season for her, as she leapt 6.07 meters to claim the top spot on the podium, while also setting a new personal record in the event. Her previous best was 5.90 meters, which she set at the 2018 Metropolitan Indoor Championships.

The rest of the jump squad provided impressive showings, as well. In the high jump, the Knights claimed 3 of the top-5 spots, with sophomore Rhonda Rogombe and freshman Courteney Campbell both reaching a height of 1.62 meters, finishing second and third in the event, respectively. Sophomore Selena Thorne rounded out the top five when she cleared the bar at a height of 1.57 meters. 

On the track, Rutgers saw its best performance come from freshman Kiera Nealon, as the Manalapan, New Jersey native crossed the line first in the unseeded section of the 5,000 meter, finishing with a time of 17:38.00, approximately 12 seconds better than her previous performance in the event at the Yellow Jacket Invitational. 

Senior Alexandra Juzwiak placed fourth in the same event, crossing the line with a time of 17:47.73, setting a new personal record in the process, while junior Allyson Black grabbed another top-10 finish for the Knights when she set a mark of 18:37.01, finishing 10th overall in the event.

Robinson was effusive in his praise of the efforts of both Clarke and Nealon.

“We had some really good performances, especially in terms of the performance of Oniesha Clarke,” Robinson said. “You know she won the event, the long jump, and had the fifth-best performance ever for Rutgers in her event. Kiera Nealon was also really impressive in her event, as well, especially when you consider that she’s only a freshman.”

In the 100-meter hurdles, Rutgers saw a pair of Knights put up impressive performances. In the preliminaries, fifth-year senior Drew Andrews grabbed a fourth-place finish with a time of 14.88, while sophomore Lynnea Davis was right behind her in fifth place with a time of 15.17. Later in the finals, Andrews claimed the third-best finish with a mark of 14.79, while Davis grabbed the seventh spot with a time of 15.56.

Rutgers swiped one last top-10 performance in the field events, as junior Halia Rosemond placed 10th in the discus throw with a distance of 37.10 meters.

Despite the strong showing the Knights had this weekend, there is a still a lot the team can improve upon, at least according to Robinson. 

“We need to really need to learn how to perform best at the same time, (sic)” Robinson said. “We need to be consistent and come together to perform well at the same time. We’re a bit too inconsistent as a team. We really need to be able to come together to give our best collective effort all at once. And our real test for our performance will come at the Big Ten Championships.”

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

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