With stomachs full of food from the Livingston Dining Commons, the Rutgers men’s cross country team, composed mostly of underclassmen and lead by seniors Andrew Comito and Cole Pschunder, heads out to run.
Being the lone seniors, Comito and Pschunder have taken a tremendous leadership role.
“We definitely have to show the guys some of the workouts, how to properly pace, don’t push it too hard on what reps,” Comito said.
When it comes to style of leadership the seniors employ, Pschunder summed it up best. He said that he wants to set a good example for his teammates.
“You have got to motivate the younger guys to know that we need them to step up and compete among themselves to fight for spots on the team, like the fourth and fifth spots," Pschunder said.
Pschunder, who called the freshman class very talented, wants to show them what a good leader does so they can take this advice when they become seniors.
During races, Pschunder wants to be “a low stick for them in our competitions so that I can help the team’s scoring.” Low stick describes a runner who can regularly compete for first place, allowing their teammates to run more comfortably.
Unlike most sports, there are no timeouts in cross country to talk to your coach about adjusting your strategy, so it falls on the veterans to show the younger runners how it's done. Comito recalls from the Lehigh Invitational.
“We had me, Cole and (juniors) Pat(rick Walsh) up in front with Billy Hill, I check my shoulder and I saw (Thomas Hillyer) and Liam (McHale) who are two freshmen on the team … it’s definitely a confidence booster to see those guys who are sticking their heads out there and giving it their all," Comito said.
There have only been two races so far this year, but the Scarlet Knights came in second place and won the other.
“They are expected to perform, so when you do that, it’s always a good feeling for yourself, because you know that you helped the team out. You expect yourself to be there again for the next race and that’s how you build a good team," Comito said when asked about rewards.
Besides staying together during races, the team tries to eat its meals together at the Livingston Dining Commons and spend as much time together as possible. It's essential to team chemistry that when runners spend so much time together, they actually get along, and especially for this season when the freshmen are adjusting.
“I’ve given the freshmen rides to most practices, making sure they get there on time," Pschunder said. "I’ve gone to run with a lot of the younger guys and I’ve been pushing the pace in workouts."
This Saturday Rutgers will line up at Ohio State for its first race in three weeks. The race will offer more than just a chance to compete against some of the best talent in the country.
“It’s going to be fun, traveling as a team, some of the younger guys haven’t been on a plane before, so the whole experience will be cool. After the Ohio State Invite, the team will move into the championship races, so the race will be just as fun as it is nerve racking. We’ve been keeping it quiet … but this week we are going to start getting hype for it,” Pschunder said.
"If you don’t talk about something, it’s not as hype when you get there," Comito said.
For updates on the Rutgers men's cross country team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.