The NCAA Northeast Regional Meet turned into a road race after bad weather swamped the course in Buffalo, New York, giving the 14 Binghamton men’s and women’s runners one last challenge to cap off a strong season. Sophomore Aziza Chigatayeva took 35th and freshman Ryan Guerci finished 78th among the most competitive teams in the nation last Friday. Both athletes, along with senior Jessica Cueva-Scarpelli, were given all-conference titles earlier this season.
“Any time you’re close to the top 100 or in the top 100 as a freshman … I think that’s fantastic,” said Binghamton head coach Annette Acuff. “That’s a pretty good benchmark for a lot of freshmen.”
Guerci led six other Binghamton men’s runners to a team finish of 22nd out of 37 competing schools with a time of 30:20.7 in his first collegiate 10K. This was the highest finish by a freshman since 2009, when Jeff Martinez took 67th at the meet. Following Guerci was redshirt senior Daryn Hutchings in 105th (30:46.3) and fellow freshmen runners Matt Cavaliere and Marty Dolan, taking 112th (30:51.4) and 151st (31:25.1), respectively. There were 265 finishers in the race and team finishes included America East (AE) conference members UMass Lowell, which took fourth overall, and Stony Brook, which finished fifth.
“Even though we were third last year in the conference and [this year] we were fifth, it’s not that we weren’t as good of a team — the conference was just stronger,” Acuff said. “I think we were as strong as we were last year.”
The Binghamton women’s team placed 23rd out of 37 schools. Chigatayeva ended her season finishing 35th out of 266 finishing runners (20:28.0 in the 6K), highlighting her ability to compete among the best collegiate runners in the Northeast and consistently come out near the top throughout the course of the season. Finishing behind her in 90th place was redshirt junior Emily Mackay, clocking in at 21:17.5, besting last year’s regional performance of 23:52.2. Cueva-Scarpelli was the third-highest Binghamton finisher, coming in 148th (22:04.4), followed by freshman Kyra Guerci in 159th (22:11.3). Last year, the women’s team finished 23rd as well, but only with 35 competing teams. Additionally, Chigatayeva finished 112th that year.
“I’m really happy with her development and her performance, and I think it sets her up for an even better track season,” Acuff said.
The Bearcats were also missing key athletes due to injury and illness. Redshirt junior Dan Schaffer missed the entire season due to injury. Last year, he finished 23rd at the NCAA Northeast Regional Meet and took silver at the AE Conference, earning first-team all-conference honors. Additionally, on the men’s side, freshman Nick DeFelice, who earned all-America honors in the 3K steeplechase and won the New York State Division I title for the same event in 2019 while in high school, wasn’t healthy after the Lehigh meet earlier in the season and couldn’t fully perform for its remainder. The women’s side was missing junior Kaylee Stone, who could only compete for part of the season because of illness.
“We had a couple of athletes that didn’t have as strong of a season for different reasons, but we had a lot of them gain some great experience,” Acuff said.
Overall, the men’s and women’s cross country teams demonstrated potential, particularly among many of the new freshmen and performances from returning runners. The win by the men’s team at the Albany meet earlier in the season, along with three athletes earning all-conference honors, highlighted some of the strengths of the 2019 roster.
“Overall, we certainly experienced a lot of success this season and a lot of good development that will help our athletes going into track and next year’s cross country season,” Acuff said. “I’m really excited about the future of both teams moving forward.”
In three weeks, the athletes will return to Cornell on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. in the Greg Page Relays, their opening meet for the track and field season.