Rutgers' Burgess, Christie, Campbell qualify for NCAA Championships
The indoor season has ended for all of the Rutgers men’s and women’s track and field athletes, except for three.
Junior Taj Burgess and seniors Perry Christie and Courteney Campbell have qualified for the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships, held at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Even before the momentous meet begins, this season has still been one to remember for the trio. At the TCNJ Lions Indoor Invitational — the first meet of the year — Burgess broke the Scarlet Knights’ record in the 500-meter.
Burgess finished his lap and a little extra in 1:00.80 minutes, good for the new school record and the second-best time in NCAA history. That time only stood for two weeks. At the Thomas Terrier Classic, Burgess ran his race in 1:00.73 minutes, beating his record from earlier in the season.
Burgess sees the importance of these achievements.
“The confidence is up there at its peak to actually go beyond our expectations,” he said. “It shows a lot of determination and shows the coaches that we are apart of this team and this culture.”
This entire season, along with his entire career, have been memorable for Burgess, but his route to his first NCAA Championships has not been so direct. As a freshman, a nagging leg injury prevented Burgess from qualifying. As a sophomore, his time was a fraction away from what it needed to be.
This year, Burgess is among the top 16 in the NCAA, something he had been telling himself he could do since the beginning of the year.
“This was the year I told myself I was definitely going to make it,” Burgess said. “Here we are now, with the top 16 in the country.”
Aside from coming in first place in the high jump several times this year, Christie now owns Rutgers' record for the men’s event. At the Meyo Invitational, Christie leaped 2.23 meters, claiming first place and his spot in history.
At the Vanderbilt Invitational, Campbell also found her spot in the record books in the high jump. Her performance of 1.80 meters won her the event. The Vanderbilt Invitational served as a window into Campbell’s season. Her specialized training with Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Bob Farrell has led to her impressive season.
Everyone’s achievements and successes this year didn’t come easily. There were injuries, redshirts and adjustments that needed to be made. Aside from dealing with those factors, there are the everyday factors of working hard and striving to be better.
Christie explained the team focused on “learning how to gel together all as one unit, since it’s the girl’s and guy’s team together.”
After the weekend’s festivities, the Knights will immediately transfer to outdoor season and head down to Miami for their first outdoor meet. After that, Rutgers will travel to North Carolina State, Florida and Princeton before their first championship meet.
Going into a big meet like the NCAA Championships could be daunting to some, but not for Campbell and the Knights.
“My strategy is just to stay calm and trust my training,” Campbell said. “Once I start overthinking and really put pressure on myself, that’s when things can go left.”
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