This season, redshirt junior Dan Schaffer has proven to be one of the most formidable distance runners in the nation, sitting among world-class track and field athletes and competing at the highest level of competition. In years past, he’s been one of Binghamton University’s most prized athletes, dominating at America East (AE) Conference meets.

He looks to repeat this performance again this season.

“I’m feeling very confident,” Schaffer said. “I can’t underestimate any of my competitors. The [AE] Conference is very strong this year.”

Ever since Schaffer began playing soccer as a midfielder during his freshman year of high school, he developed a strong passion for running. Later, he joined the Maine-Endwell track and field team, laying down a time of 9:39.40 in the 3,200-meter during his sophomore year of high school at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association State Track and Field Championship. He would shrink his time down to 8:57.50 his senior year to hold the school record in both the 3,200-meter and 1,600-meter for the Spartans. Schaffer pursued his talent for running at BU, where he would continue to break records. His 14:03.06 5K time, which he ran earlier this season at the Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener at Boston University, narrowly edged out his own school record. This 5K time currently places him 20th overall in the NCAA Division I standings, and he also holds 12th in the 3K (7:58.22) and 30th in the mile (4:01.51).

BU seemed like the best option for Schaffer, not just because of its proximity to home and his interest in the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, but because of head cross country coach Annette Acuff and the University’s track and field program.

“Coach Acuff, I love her training philosophy, the way she runs the program, and it’s obviously worked very well for me,” Schaffer said.

Schaffer did not compete in the 2019 cross country season because of a foot injury which required surgery. Despite missing an entire season, however, he maintained his fitness and bounced back to run his record 5K time in Boston. Acuff, Patrick Murray, assistant cross country coach and the University’s medical staff were pivotal in helping him recover after his surgery.

“[Acuff] thinks long-term, so trying to preserve my health in the long term, so she never rushed me to try and get me back for cross country,” Schaffer said. “She immediately said, when I needed surgery, that we’ll redshirt cross country and just focus on coming back for the indoor.”

After returning to action, Schaffer has continued to shine during this year’s indoor season for the Bearcats. Last Saturday, he competed among some of the most prestigious athletes in the world at the 113th-annual New York Road Runners Millrose Games at the Armory in New York City. Although his mile time of 4:11.51 didn’t land him a top position in the Allan Steinfeld mile, he was hindered by a push at the start of the race that caused a restart.

“Getting to represent [BU] at such a high level was super exciting,” Schaffer said. “I would’ve liked to have run a faster time, but given the circumstance I think I did the best I could, gave it my best effort.”

On Friday at 1 p.m., Schaffer will compete at the Iowa State Classic to race in the 5K in hopes of further reducing his time in preparation for this year’s conference meet. Last year, Schaffer only managed eighth at the indoor AE Championships. However, with his consistent improvement throughout this year’s winter season, he has a solid chance at competing for the gold.