Sophomore Aziza Chigatayeva proved to be tough competition at the Iona Meet of Champions, where the Binghamton men’s and women’s cross country teams competed Friday. Chigatayeva took fifth place out of 163 runners in the women’s race and led the BU women to a ninth-place finish out of 16 teams.
Binghamton head coach Annette Acuff was impressed by Chigatayeva’s race, commending a promising performance by the sophomore, who ran a time of 18:07 in the women’s 5K race. Chigatayeva was named America East Cross Country Rookie of the Year last season, and followed that up with a standout showing in the track season last year. Acuff called her early performance “exciting” and was pleased with the outcome.
“She looked really good in practice,” Acuff said.
Senior Jessica Cueva-Scarpelli, redshirt junior Emily Mackay, junior Kaylee Stone and junior Hannah Mellino also performed well, finishing 50th, 57th, 88th and 90th, respectively. Cueva-Scarpelli, however, was ill going into the race.
Similarly, illness and injury took a toll on the men’s cross country team going into Friday’s race. Several of the competing members were sick, and one of the runners was unable to finish due to health concerns. Despite the illnesses and injuries, there were some notable performances by the men’s team, including redshirt senior Daryn Hutchings taking 46th place out of 153 competitors in the 8K with a time of 26:18. Sophomore Dan Gahagan ran a 27:22 to take 64th. The Binghamton men finished 11th out of 18th overall.
Redshirt junior Dan Schaffer did not compete at this meet due to injury. Acuff said she considers Schaffer an extremely important part of the team. She believes he won’t be competing much, if it all, this season, but more will be known over the course of the next month. Acuff plans to give Schaffer sufficient recovery time to focus on the upcoming track season.
“It’s definitely going to hurt our team this year,” Acuff said.
There were no freshmen who competed at Friday’s race. Instead, they competed at Colgate on Sept. 7, with the men’s team running in the 6.4K and the women’s in the 4.8K. Freshmen Matthew Cavaliere, Ryan Guerci and Nick DeFelice all finished within the top 20, and freshman Kyra Guerci was Binghamton’s top finisher at the women’s meet. Acuff said she wanted to start the freshmen at a shorter distance as a good introduction to collegiate competition, but she plans to take the entire team to the Lehigh University meet on Oct. 5.
“The freshmen are doing fantastic,” Acuff said. “We’re in great shape.”
Overall, Acuff seemed pleased with both the meets at Colgate and Iona, even though illness and rusty performances hurt the team. She credited the individual performances of runners, but said she wants to see more out of the team as a whole. The difficulty of the course also contributed to the results of Friday’s meet. Acuff said many of the runners struggled toward the latter portion of the race, as the first mile is fairly flat but eventually transitions into rolling hills. Acuff said the courses later in the season are generally easier.
Next up for the team is the Paul Short Run on Oct. 5. The event is hosted by Lehigh University and will take place in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.