After struggling with the inexperience of a combined nine new additions to last year’s rosters, the Binghamton University men’s and women’s cross country teams will head into the 2012 season looking to move forward with the rebuilding process.
The men’s team finished fourth at last year’s America East championship, which marked the first conference championship appearance for seven of the team’s eight participants. Then-junior Vasili Papastrat, the event’s only returner from the men’s squad, led the Bearcats and earned all-conference honors with a ninth-place finish.
Less than a month later, the men closed out 2011 by capturing the program’s first-ever IC4A championship title. Freshman Collin Frost became the event’s top finisher in Binghamton’s Division I history with a fourth-place finish. Fellow freshman Cal Michaels and juniors Anthony Gaetani and Papastrat all finished within the top 10.
Papastrat and senior Jason Santos will sit out the 2012 season as redshirts, while Michaels will likely be sidelined for the year due to injury. The team is set to get back senior Jeff Martinez at the start of the season, however, after missing him as a redshirt last year.
“We’re going to be relying on a lot of sophomores on the men’s side this year,” head coach Annette Acuff said. “I do have Jeff Martinez back … who looks really good right now so we certainly are looking forward to seeing what he can get accomplished this year.”
Despite losing three key pieces in Papastrat, Santos and Michaels, Martinez said that expectations remain high and that last year’s experience should help some of the younger runners.
“Our goal is definitely to try and win the conference meet,” he said. “We have a fairly strong team this year and we actually match up quite well with the other members of the conference so trying to go for the championship is not out of the question … The team is a little bit older, so I’m expecting all the guys to step up now that they’ve all had a full year under their belts.”
The women’s team remains youth-laden, entering the 2012 season with eight freshmen joining the roster. The squad will return two of its top five runners from last season, however, in senior Rachel Miura and junior Caitlin Jelinek.
Jelinek led the Bearcats to a sixth-place finish at last year’s America East championship, finishing 31st overall. The junior said she believes the team has potential despite their youth.
“We have a good freshman class coming in, probably the strongest freshman class we’ve ever had,” she said. “It’s promising … We’re really excited, and I think everyone on the team will perform well … We’re ready to run.”
This season, the women are set to compete against four America East teams ranked among the top 15 teams in the Northeast by the USTFCCCA Northeast Regional poll in Stony Brook University, University of New Hampshire, the University of Vermont and Boston University.
The men’s and women’s teams are scheduled to kick off the season at 4 p.m. Friday at the Army Tri-Meet in West Point.