Rutgers' Campbell, Pschunder focus on Big Ten Championships
After a two week break, the Rutgers men’s and women’s track and field teams will send their best to compete against their conference foes. The Big Ten Championships kickoff is this Friday in Geneva, Ohio.
Schools will send their best athletes and the fierce competition excites the Scarlet Knights.
“I’m pretty excited,” said junior Courteney Campbell. “I’m really in the mix to win the Big Ten this weekend. The competition is really competitive with high jump, so I’m a little anxious because I want to do well.”
Campbell knows the top competitors will come from Penn State, Purdue and Iowa. Depending on how Campbell and the rest of Rutgers’ competitors do this weekend, some of them could be reunited at the NCAA Championships next month.
In what Campbell describes as her best season as a Knight, she won the high jump event at three meets this year: the TCNJ Lions Invitational, the Vanderbilt Invitational and most recently the Metropolitan Championships. At the Vanderbilt Invitational, Campbell set a new school record with a jump of 1.80 meters. At last year’s Big Ten, she won the silver medal.
This year, her hopes are simple: “I’m hoping to get the gold this weekend,” Campbell said.
A podium finish in her event could help her stay in the top 16 needed to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Campbell will be the only competitor from Rutgers in her event.
Campbell knows that one of the main reasons she has reached this point is due to her head coach, Bob Farrell. Through varied workouts and training, Farrell has coached Campbell to the top of her game.
“He’s great,” Campbell said. “He works on me technique wise and my whole running has been different. I feel like I became a better athlete (due to) him.”
Although Campbell will be by herself when she begins her approach to her jump, she will have her teammates on the sidelines and her family, including her brother who plays football at Pittsburgh, in the stands.
“My family means everything to me,” Campbell said. “I haven’t seen him (her brother) in a long time and he’s going to come. I feel like they’re going to be my good luck charms.”
Senior Cole Pschunder hopes to pave the way on the men’s side of competition. Pschunder will be the lone Knight in his event, the 5,000 meter.
This will be Pschunder’s fourth consecutive Big Ten. He has improved his rank and time through the numerous trips to the meet. He has his intentions laid out.
“I’m going to try to hit a personal best, maybe get close to the school record,” Pschunder said.
His personal best is 14:26.53 minutes. The school record he is trying to beat is 14:12.9 minutes. The indoor 5,000 meter record was set by Jim Casey in 1981.
Having previously raced in the prestigious meet has made an impact on Pschunder.
“It’s definitely a huge honor,” Pschunder said. “It fueled the fire for me and pushed me to work harder every year and get better.”
In his final indoor season at Rutgers, Pschunder will try to make his final impact before the competitions move outside in a few weeks.
That fire has led Pschunder to be the only Knight in his event. He will line up against powerhouses like Wisconsin. Since he won’t have his teammates, Pschunder explained his strategy.
“Wisconsin has a lot of good 5K (kilometer) guys. There’s a couple Purdue guys around me that I’m going to try to stick by in the race,” Pschunder said. “As long as I can stay with them I think I’ll be able to set a really good time.”
Pschunder will have to rely on his mental and physical strength to push him through the long race without his teammates.
Besides the nerves that come with competing on this level, there is excitement around the team. Pschunder has seen the level of drive and skill that this team has.
“This might be the most talented group we ever had,” Pschunder said. “This is our best chance to do well in the Big Ten.”
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