The Binghamton men’s and women’s cross country teams finished up their seasons on Friday afternoon by battling through Buffalo’s inhospitable weather conditions to middle-of-the-pack finishes at the NCAA Northeast Regional Meet.
“There was a lot of mud, it snowed, it was in the 30s … we had a lot of kids that fell so that hurt us,” said BU head coach Annette Acuff.
Redshirt sophomore Dan Schaffer led the men to an 18th-place finish out of 34 teams. He completed the 10k course with a time of 33:47 and placed 23rd overall, earning the All-Northeast Region honors, an award that recognizes the race’s top 25 runners. Schaffer was followed by redshirt junior Daryn Hutchings, who finished 60th at 34:27, and redshirt sophomore Mitch Halpern, who recorded a time of 34:59 and placed 98th. Redshirt freshman David Leff crossed the line fourth for the Bearcats, placing 166th with a time of 36:20.
The men’s team improved upon its 2017 regional performance, both individually and collectively. Last year, Schaffer finished 35th overall, Halpern placed 136th with a time of 34:38 and the team placed 21st out of 37 teams.
Syracuse repeated last year’s first-place showing by snagging the meet’s top spot. The Orange’s fastest runners crossed the finish line within six seconds of each other, securing sixth-, seventh- and eighth-place finishes. Graduate student Paul Hogan of UMass Lowell placed first among the 241 individual runners with a time of 32:30, leading the River Hawks to the sixth slot.
On the women’s side, the Ivy League dominated the field, with Columbia, Dartmouth, Yale and Cornell earning the meet’s top-four finishes in that order. Despite their dominance, Syracuse redshirt senior Shannon Malone’s individual victory helped her squad cement a fifth-place finish. She completed the 6k distance in a time of 21:28, which was 11 seconds faster than runner-up sophomore Egle Morenaite of Iona.
The Bearcats placed 23rd out of 35 teams. Junior Jessica Cueva-Scarpelli earned 102nd place out of 252 runners with a time of 23:42, while freshman Aziza Chigatayeva completed the course with a time of 23:52, placing 112th. Redshirt sophomore Emily Mackay was hard on her heels in 113th place, finishing less than a second behind Chigatayeva. Chigatayeva, the standout rookie, completed the same 6k distance one minute and 37 seconds faster at the Princeton Invitational earlier this season. The conditions may have adversely affected performance, but Acuff was pleased with the grit that Binghamton demonstrated.
“We did the best we could’ve done,” Acuff said.
Despite the frigid temperatures and swampy course, the women’s performance this fall outdid last year’s results, and both squads came away from the meet with valuable experience. In 2017, the women finished 26th of 36 squads, and Cueva-Scarpelli placed 117th; this year, both of those numbers improved. The Bearcats’ 23rd place finish this season was its best since the team earned 22nd place seven years ago.
“Overall, it was a great meet,” Acuff said. “It was an improvement from last year on both sides.”
This assessment bodes well for next season, as the squads are relatively young. Of the seven women who competed in the regional meet, only one, senior Erika Yamazaki, will be graduating this school year. Similarly, six men raced in Buffalo, and Nate Howe was the lone senior. This season has allowed newer members of the team, such as Chigatayeva, to develop and gather confidence.
“We have a lot of young kids that have learned how to compete a little bit more efficiently,” Acuff said.
The combination of youth and increased experience will open the door for the Bearcats to build off of this season’s successes and continue improving next fall.