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Rutgers returns 2 seniors to cross country team

 – Photo by The Daily Targum

With the firing of the starting pistol on Aug. 30 at the Lehigh Invitational, another season began for the Rutgers men's cross country team.

The Scarlet Knights had a successful campaign last year, but aim to have a better one this year. The lone seniors on the team, Cole Pschunder and Andrew Comito, are ready to lead a team of mostly underclassmen. 

“I want to lead as a good example," Pschunder said when asked about his goals for the season.

Over the offseason, the runners train in coordination with the workouts head coach Mike Mulqueen sends. Both the seniors, and the rest of the team, have warmly welcomed Mulqueen’s higher-intensity workouts featuring “more mileage and longer, distance-based track and tempo runs,” Mulqueen said.

Pschunder said that the workouts have included more strength-building, while also mentioning the “guys are dedicated” to their workouts. 

Comito, looking to improve on what he thought was a great last season, spent his summer working at an internship in Portland, Oregon. Being in what he described as an active city, he was able to easily step up his training. 

In addition to their increased workload, the team has another means of improving. 

“We have changed our schedule around so we do not race as frequently as last year," Mulqueen said. 

This allows for the team to heal between races and address any issues before the next one. 

When Comito was asked what he thinks the team can improve on, he pointed to the “holes in the team” and emphasized how the team needs to “work together as a pack” during races. 

He said in past years there would be pairs of Rutgers athletes scattered throughout each race. When a team runs as a pack, it can feed off of each other’s efforts and run an overall better race. 

This year’s team is comprised of two seniors and two juniors. Mulqueen believes any of the 10 underclassmen can compete at the same level as their older counterparts. 

“Anyone from the second group is capable of closing the gap and getting with the first group," Mulqueen said.

Mulqueen made sure to acknowledge the difficulties that come with the transition to the collegiate level. 

"The freshmen are running 5-mile races now, compared to the 3.1 mile distance they ran in high school," Mulqueen said.

The team has already started to show improvement. In the opening race of the season, the Lehigh Invitational, the Knights placed second overall. Pschunder finished first for Rutgers, eighth overall and Comito finished second, placing him at 10th overall. 

At the second race, the Fordham Fiasco, Pschunder mentioned a close knit locker room, and the team learned from its mistakes. The Knights beat Princeton and UPenn, taking home first place, with Pschunder finishing second overall. 

Comito mentioned that the team has high hopes coming into the season. Among those hopes are to top the Metropolitan Championships on Oct. 11. Rutgers will travel to Columbus, Ohio, for the Ohio State Invite on Sept. 28 to make sure everything is in working order before the Metropolitan Championships.

The next big race is the IC4A Championships and the NCAA Regional Champions. The dates are Nov. 15 and 23, respectively. 

"The four big races," Mulqueen said in reference to the latter portion of the Knights' schedule.

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

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