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Rutgers track & field begins outdoor season, sets high expectations

Senior javelin thrower Steve Coponi of the Rutgers track & field team placed first in the javelin event at the Black and Gold Invitational in Orlando, Florida.  – Photo by

The Rutgers track & field team began its 2024 outdoor season at the Black and Gold Invitational in Orlando, Florida, on March 15. The Scarlet Knights will look to build off a successful indoor season that saw the women's and men's teams place seventh and ninth, respectively, in the Big Ten Championships at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio.

At the NCAA Championships, junior pole vaulter Chloe Timberg tied for third place and junior sprinter and jumper Sincere Robinson placed sixth in the men's long jump. Timberg and Robinson both earned All-American honors.

Director of Rutgers Track and Field and Cross Country Bobby Farrell previewed the upcoming outdoor season for the Knights.

"I love once we get outdoors, I been looking forward to this outdoor season for a long time," Farrell said. "My expectation outdoor this year was always going to be high."

Because track & field is split into two seasons, athletes can sustain an injury that would only medically redshirt them for 1 of the 2 seasons. This, partnered with the lost outdoor season back in 2020, has led to many athletes becoming eligible for their sixth year of participation.

"The sixth years are rare, they were a big part of the last couple years because of (COVID-19)," Farrell said. "Generally, prior to (COVID-19) you wouldn't have seen a lot of sixth years roaming around."

Among returning stars are graduate student sprinter Jameson Woodell and graduate student jumper A'nan Bridgett. The pair have both suffered injuries before but have impressive college resumes.

Woodell was an All-American in the 400-meter hurdles and currently holds the school record with a time of 49.82 seconds. He also did well in the 4x400-meter relay, contributing to a second-place finish in his most recent run last year.

Bridgett is also an All-American and is regarded as one of the best athletes in the program. Aside from being a 2022 First Team All-American in the long jump, he is the fastest returning 100-meter runner and holds the school record in the 60-meter with a time of 6.74 seconds.

Many athletes aside from Woodell and Bridgett will compete in the outdoor season, including graduate student hurdler Reanda Richards, grad student hurdler and sprinter Icisys Sadler, freshman sprinter Bryce Tucker and sophomore sprinter Greg McQueen.

Farrell pointed out freshman sprinter Shamali Whittle as someone to watch. Whittle transferred from Georgia, where he redshirted his freshman year. He dealt with a toe issue during the indoor season and has yet to compete.

"(Whittle's) really good, he's starting to really come along, so you'll see his name pop up a lot," Farrell said.

Whittle is the school's top men's sprinter for the 200-meter race, as he was the fastest in New Jersey high school history, with a time of 20.75 seconds.

The outdoor season brings new throwing events in the hammer, discus and javelin. At Rutgers' outdoor season opener this past weekend, senior javelin thrower Steve Coponi placed first place in the javelin event, throwing for a distance of 70.02 meters (229' 8").  Senior thrower and jumper Alicia Campbell finished first in the shot put with a distance of 15.40 meters (50' 6.25"). The performance by Coponi echoes a sentiment shared by many of the athletes in the throws room for the Knights.

"Javelin throwers have been chomping at the bit because they only get the one season," Farrell said.

Track & field takes place all year long, but two-thirds of the year is spent indoors, limiting how much of the year outdoor throwers have to compete. Farrell explained that while the indoor season is much longer and is still critical, track & field is naturally much more of an outdoor sport.

"On a world scale (indoor) is not going to draw as much attention as the outdoor when you have the Olympics and the World Championships," Farrell said. "Most professional athletes are gearing more towards outdoor."

Not only does Farrell believe the sport is better suited for the outdoor environment, but he believes his athletes are too.

"I think inherently since so many of our athletes are from New Jersey, they are very outdoor based," Farrell said.

Farrell expects the program to have its best season in a long time, aiming high when discussing goals for the springtime showing.

"One of the biggest goals is to get as many qualifiers to the NCAA prelims as soon as possible," Farrell said. "Last year I think we brought 19, this year we're really trying to get over 30 athletes."

Rutgers will continue its outdoor season with a pair of meets this weekend. The Knights will compete at the Knights Invite in Orlando, Florida, at the UCF Soccer and Track Complex. Rutgers will also travel to Philadelphia on Saturday for the Penn Challenge.

"The conference is so competitive, when you're in the top six you're one of the best teams in the country," Farrell said. "I think it's going to be important to really make our marks, and I'm confident we will."

For more updates on the Rutgers track & field team, follow @TargumSports on X.

To view more of Philip Jaccoma's work, follow @PJaccoma on X.

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