Photo courtesy of Steve McLoughlin

Last year, the Binghamton University men’s cross country team, led by then-junior Erik van Ingen and coach Annette Acuff, won its first America East Conference title in program history. After a 2009 performance that included heroics, memories and successes that won’t soon be forgotten, the Bearcats came up short this time around as they tried to defend their title on Saturday in Franklin Park, Boston.

Competing against all eight teams in the conference, Binghamton pulled into second place on Saturday with 54 points. Although a second-overall finish is nothing to scoff at, the Bearcats were the favorite to take first and their performance was disappointing to many. Defending their home turf, Boston University won the men’s event with 45 points. The University at Albany rounded out the top three with 60 points.

Out of a field of 84 total runners, the top men’s individual performer was University of Maine’s Riley Masters, who finished with a time of 24:04 and won by an impressive 18 seconds.

Binghamton sophomore Jeff Martinez fared well Saturday and finished fifth overall with a time of 24:41 on the 8,000-meter course. Seniors Adam Quinn, Casey Quaglia and Andrew Ugolino all broke the top 20, finishing 12th, 15th and 16th overall, respectively.

Graduate student and co-captain Chris Gaube finished shortly after Martinez with a time of 24:43 and placed sixth overall. Gaube has finished in the top six or better for three years in a row. Despite the respectable time and placing, Gaube couldn’t help but feel upset about the performance this past weekend.

‘I think I can speak for most of the group when I say we’re pretty disappointed,’ Gaube said. ‘Obviously going in, our goal was to be champions and today Boston ran like champions and deserved it.’

At the America East Championships last year, Gaube finished second overall, right behind teammate Erik van Ingen, who finished first. Van Ingen, the team’s most successful runner, was forced to drop out of Saturday’s race because of an undisclosed health concern.

‘This year we weren’t as fortunate in terms of executing our game plan,’ Gaube said. ‘But at the same token, we ran hard and the best that we could, but things just didn’t fall into place today.’

Despite not exceeding expectations this past weekend, Gaube remains optimistic about the future and was able to take some positives out of the meet.

‘You can’t sit on something like this,’ Gaube said. ‘You’ve got to put it behind you because I think this team is a championship-caliber team and I think we still have one really good race in us.’

Annette Acuff, who is in her 11th season as the men’s and women’s head cross country coach, believes her team raced the best race they could and left it all out on the track. Coming off a year in which she led the men’s team to historic success and was named, along with assistant coach Joe Pienta, the America East Men’s Cross Country Coaching Staff of the Year, Acuff knows that things don’t usually play out as you expect them to.

‘Different circumstances, different situation,’ Acuff said. ‘Anything can happen on any given day. The course that we ran on last year was a lot different than the course we ran on this year and we’re always a stronger team on a hillier course than on a flat course.’

Unlike last year, when all the stars seemed to align for Binghamton, Boston’s home-field advantage, the terrain and the absence of Erik Van Ingen all played against the Bearcat squad.

‘It all clicked and we were very fortunate with how we did last year at Vermont,’ Acuff said. ‘I thought that today, we ran the best that we could. They went out and fought hard and we knew it was going to be a tough battle with Boston on their home turf.’

On the women’s side, the Bearcats finished seventh overall with 183 points. Stony Brook, the heavy favorites, won the event with 24 points.

Stony Brook senior Lucy van Dalen was the individual winner in a field of 81 runners with a time of 16:48.

Binghamton sophomores Lindsay Raulli and Rachel Miura both cracked the top 30, finishing 27th and 28th overall with times of 18:35 and 18:37, respectively.

‘Our team is much better this year but so is the competition,’ Acuff said. ‘We executed early and, realistically, we did the best we could do.’

Binghamton will have a chance to bounce back at the NCAA Northeast Regional in Madison, Conn., scheduled for Nov. 13. Last year, the men’s team finished a school-record eighth out of 36 squads.