With only the four championship races left on its schedule, the Rutgers men's cross country team has begun to step closer to some goals it set out at the onset of the season.
Earlier in the season, senior Andrew Comito said among the team’s hopes are “winning Metropolitans.” The Scarlet Knights came very close to that aspiration as they finished third overall, behind Manhattan College and first-place Fordham.
Junior Patrick Walsh isn’t worried about not winning Metropolitans.
“We are heading in the right direction," Walsh said.
Walsh knows one way that Rutgers will improve is by the limit on the number of runners for the championship races.
“Despite having nearly 15 guys on the team, only seven runners can travel to Regionals and only nine runners can travel to Big Ten's (Big Ten Championships)," Walsh said. "Right now everyone is fighting for spots … that competition is really making us better as a team.”
While the top roster spots will be filled by veterans including Walsh, Comito and senior Cole Pschunder, the bottom spots, especially for Big Tens, are open. Some of the younger runners have begun to show they can run at a higher level as the season goes on.
“There were some break out races for our freshman Ryan Mitchell, and sophomore Chris Smith who are really moving up the ranking on our team," Pschunder said.
The Knights have been practicing, according to head coach Mike Mulqueen’s time-honored workouts.
"A lot of our workouts are designed to help simulate a 10K race," Walsh said. "For example, we have done 4-by-2000 meters at around 5-minute pace and then threw in a couple fast 400 meters for turn over."
In regular terms that means the team has been running four reps of one and a quarter miles. They have been doing this in around 5 minutes per mile. The 400 meters are run at a faster pace to increase leg turnover time.
“It’s just a matter of execution at this point," Walsh said.
Comito and Pschunder have tried to help the runners execute better through motivation.
“Work ethic is contagious, when you go on social media and see guys like Andrew running 18 mile long runs at 6:15 pace, it makes you motivated to do more yourself," Pschunder said. "Also Cole … has been our top dog in the majority of races.”
Mulqueen wants to keep his runners focused throughout their workouts.
“(Mulqueen) keeps reminding us that we are in shape … It’s just about putting the pieces together and really working hard for each other,” Walsh said.
The championship season continues as Rutgers travels to Columbus, Ohio, for the Big Ten Championships on Sunday, Nov. 3. Before then, they will focus on their team split.
“Our split at Princeton was 2:30. This needs to be decreased to under 1:00 at least”, Walsh said. If all the scoring runners on the team finish within a minute of each other the team’s overall score will improve.
As Walsh gears up for his third championship season, improvement and teamwork remain his priorities.
“I love my team and I race for the man next to me," Walsh said. "It’s a privilege to represent the state of New Jersey and Rutgers."
“Work ethic is contagious, when you go on social media and see guys like Andrew running 18 mile long runs at 6:15 pace, it makes you motivated to do more yourself," Pschunder said.
"Also Cole … has been our top dog in the majority of races," Walsh said.
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