With five Bearcats earning first-place finishes, the Binghamton men’s and women’s track and field teams had a satisfactory performance at the 2019 America East (AE) Outdoor Championships in Albany, New York. The Binghamton women finished the meet in fourth place, and the men placed sixth.
“I thought it was up and down,” said BU head coach Mike Thompson. “I thought some individuals did very well, and I thought there were a few areas where we didn’t get points that we really needed to get to do better in the team score. But overall, it was not bad, but really I was hoping for better.”
The first Bearcat to take top honors at the championship was sophomore Mallory Prelewicz, who won the women’s pole vault competition (12-1 1/2), sweeping the indoor and outdoor AE titles. Shortly thereafter, graduate student Brooke Bonney captured the women’s hammer competition (178-4), her second career AE championship.
Arguably the most successful group of competitors for Binghamton was the women’s distance runners, with a trio of Bearcats finishing in the top three across two races. On Saturday, freshman Aziza Chigatayeva won the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:37.27) — after falling in the beginning of the race, Chigatayeva was able to recover and overcome her opponent from Albany.
“I didn’t panic, just because I knew that I had a good kick, and I had enough strength to catch up to her,” Chigatayeva said. “My plan going into it was to just to relax and kick at the end, just to have an easy win if possible, but I had to work a little bit harder just to make up the ground.”
At the conclusion of the event, Chigatayeva was named Most Outstanding Women’s Rookie at the event. Finishing third (10:50.85) in the race was another Bearcat, her training partner, sophomore Kaylee Stone.
“She’s come a long way,” Chigatayeva said. “It was great just turning around and seeing her come right behind. She really deserved this.”
The success continued into Sunday when junior Emily Mackay took third place in the 1,500-meter (4:29.73). Later in the competition, the women’s 4×800 relay team, anchored by Mackay, won the event (9:02.67). This marks the first time in school history the Binghamton women have won the 4×800.
“I thought that the women distance runners did very well,” Thompson said. “They were probably the highlight of the weekend. They nailed it. They did great, winning the 4×800 at the end was fantastic. I don’t think we’ve ever even been close to winning the women’s 4×800, and they stepped up and did it.”
After strong performances from several women’s distance runners over the weekend, Mackay said she has great optimism for the future of the team.
“I think we have a great shot to do big things here in the next couple of years,” Mackay said. “I’m super excited, all of my teammates ran great [this weekend].”
On the men’s side, junior Dan Schaffer continued his strong season, taking first in the 1,500-meter (3:56.31). His race also started out slow, but he was able to finish with a strong kick to win.
“I really just tried not to freak out; stay calm, cool and collected,” Schaffer said. “Just trying to save as much energy as I could. Luckily, the race decompressed a little bit, and I was able to get out and kick.”
In addition to the women winning the 4×800 competition, the men’s team, anchored by Schaffer, finished second in their contest (7:39.05).
“The women’s team winning was really exciting,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t necessarily expecting that. The men’s team getting second was really even a better performance than the women on paper. They really stepped up and did well.”
Other top finishers on the men’s team included junior Jack Fitzgerald winning the men’s high jump (6-9 1/2), junior Greg Matzelle placing second in the 100-meter sprint (10.61) and senior Nick Green taking third in the shot put (49-4 1/2).
On the women’s side, sophomore Brittany Korsah placed second in both the 400-meter (55.08) and the triple jump (39-5 3/4) on the second day of the meet.
Over the course of the weekend, several Bearcats qualified for the ECAC/IC4A Championships next weekend. However, several qualifiers will not be attending due to a variety of factors, including final exams occurring in succeeding days.
“We’ll take the ones who need to run again to try and qualify for regionals, or a few seniors that’ll want to compete one more time, a few people who maybe weren’t happy with how they competed at the conference meet,” Thompson said.
The ECAC/IC4A Championships will take place on Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12 in Princeton, New Jersey.