With one race left on the Rutgers men’s cross country team’s schedule, senior Cole Pschunder looks to reflect on his collegiate cross country career as he prepares for the upcoming track season.
Pschunder has plenty to look back on as his career with the Scarlet Knights winds down, but he fondly remembers the Metropolitan Championship that occurred during his sophomore year.
“We won and we weren’t expecting to win … I think that’s the closest 1-to-7 split we’ve had since my time at Rutgers," Pschunder said.
This year, Pschunder was 1 of 2 seniors on a team that featured more underclassmen than upperclassmen. The runner has used his leadership position to motivate the new runners, while always providing support in any field.
The keys have been “to make sure they are doing the right thing by keeping them accountable,” Pschunder said. He prides himself on “just being someone they can rely on and look up to.”
No team is complete without a coach, and no player is complete without a role model. Luckily for Rutgers and Pschunder, the program has both. Head coach Mike Mulqueen has been working for the Knights for more than four decades and there is good reason for that. Besides Mulqueen's numerous accomplishments, Pschunder knows another reason why his coach has been the running king of the Banks.
“He’s a really nice guy … For example, if we’ve been up really late studying, or we’re not feeling very good, he will cut down the workouts so that he doesn’t push our bodies too far,” Pschunder said.
Another source of inspiration for the senior came from alumnus Conor Murphy. Murphy graduated last year but is back on the track team as a graduate student. Throughout his undergraduate career, Murphy was a fixture on both the cross country and track teams. He finished his career at the IC4A race — the race Rutgers will run this weekend — with a time of 23:15, finishing first for the Knights.
Pschunder looks up to Murphy in the way the senior wants his younger teammates to look up to him.
“He’s a very hard worker … He’s been grinding out training since day one here. He’s put up some really good performances for Rutgers,” Pschunder said. “I’m just really excited to have him back for another season.”
Pschunder has tried to reciprocate the role model position he benefited from onto those younger than him through what he constantly refers to as “leading by example.”
In a few days, the cross country season will be over and a group of runners will join with other athletes to form the track and field team. Before that happens, Rutgers will travel to Van Cortlandt Park, New York, for the IC4A Championships.
Excitement has been building within the team about the new season, but it has been balanced by the continued dedication to the cross country season.
Being that it is the end of the season, the team is dealing with injuries as well as the general wear-and-tear that comes with competitive running. Injuries may hurt, but the team knows what is waiting for them at the finish line.
For updates on the Rutgers men’s cross country team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.