Cross country is never a well-spectated sport, especially in the college world.
There are a multitude of reasons for that, including bad weather during races, because they're outside during the fall and winter seasons. Another reason is since courses are built to traverse hills, go in and out of wooded areas and sometimes feature water obstacles, it's impossible to determine a location for bleachers.
Even if there were bleachers, runners only pass a certain spot once or twice.
Most of the crowd tends to stay at the finish line where it can watch exhausted runners use whatever energy they have left to try to move up a few places.
But there's more to the sport than what meets the spectator’s eye during a race.
There are months of intense training that lead up to each race. This year for the Rutgers men’s cross country team, its training featured “more mileage and longer, distance-based track and tempo run”, said head coach Mike Mulqueen in an article by The Daily Targum.
Depending on what a course may feature, teams will adjust their training. In preparation for the Ohio State Invitational, the Scarlet Knights practiced running up and down hills that were higher than what they would see at Ohio State. Preparation is key to winning races, especially when it is tailored to a specific race.
Runners also must eat a carefully balanced diet, with foods that will satisfy them and help their bodies recover after a workout. It's important for each runner to know which foods satisfy their health needs. When the team eats together at Livingston Dining Commons, they all know what they should eat.
“Some guys have special meals," said senior Andrew Comito.
All of their hard work has paid off this year. Rutgers has boasted several impressive achievements this season including a first-place finish at the Fordham Fiasco, and most recently a third-place finish at the Metropolitan Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
During a race, there are both team and individual aspects. As teammates, you work together to score a low number of points and lead by example, as senior Cole Pschuner and Comito do.
Individuals have to carry their weight to not score a higher number of points. Unlike most other sports, teammates can physically help you. They can pass the ball to you or block for you. In cross country, your teammates are always there to help, but it is an individual effort to cross the finish line as quick as possible.
The Knights run in the Big Ten and compete with the likes of the Buckeyes, Indiana and Michigan. Having stronger competitors makes every team work harder, which leads to a higher-level race. Spectators would much rather watch a higher level race and runners would much rather compete at a high level.
The Knights hope for a high-level race on Saturday as they travel down the road to Princeton.
For updates on the Rutgers men's cross country team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.