Over the weekend, the Binghamton men’s and women’s track and field teams entered the America East (AE) Championship meet shorthanded after part of the team was forced to quarantine due to a positive test result during the week. Although a handful of athletes were unable to attend the meet, both teams recorded fifth-place finishes overall and had four individual titles combined.
“Honestly I don’t think [the quarantine] really affected the mindset,” said Binghamton head coach Mike Thompson. “People were disappointed for the athletes who didn’t get to go, but I don’t think it affected how people performed … I actually think this was one of our strongest performances at the conference meet in a long time.”
Of the players forced to quarantine, many of them were sprinters. During the 2019 championships, the Bearcats scored points in many of these events, but they earned none over the weekend as a result of runners not competing. Despite the adversity faced by the team, graduate student Matt Baker said that the energy at the meet remained positive.
“[BU] track and field has faced so much adversity this year and everyone came out, put their hearts out there, performed to the best of their abilities and I’m so incredibly proud of everyone,” Baker said. “Despite the fact that we had an entire bus that got shut down because of COVID-19, that didn’t defeat the spirits of anybody.”
Baker was one of four individual athletes who claimed a title over the weekend. In the triple jump, he recorded a distance of 51-5.50 feet to claim first place at the meet and the school record for the event, previously held by himself. This was Baker’s second meet of the season.
“I knew I was capable of jumping this far so it was only a matter of time,” Baker said. “My teammates, their energy, allowed me to have fun today … I feel great but I can’t say I would’ve done it without my teammates and my coaches.”
In addition to Baker, redshirt junior Dan Schaffer earned an additional 10 points for the men’s side. On Saturday, Schaffer first competed in the 1500-meter preliminary race, finishing second with a time of 3:52.90 to qualify for the finals the following day. He then ran a time of 3:49.68 on Sunday to retain his outdoor title in the event.
Redshirt senior Emily Mackay also competed in the 1500-meter event, clocking in at 4:46.41 to take fourth in Saturday’s preliminaries. However, Mackay returned on Sunday to earn 10 points for the women’s side after she won the race with a time of 4:24.62, stretching a three-second gap between her and the second-place finisher.
Capping off Binghamton’s individual title winners was redshirt sophomore Aziza Chigatayeva who won the 3000-meter steeplechase with a time of 10:29.51. Beating out her second-place opponent by nearly two seconds, Chigatayeva retained her steeplechase title on Saturday afternoon and earned 10 points for the women’s side, which tallied 66 total points by the end of the meet on Sunday. Albany took first, tallying 200 points for the women.
Closing out the meet on Sunday, the men’s 4×800 relay team battled to the finish line against New Hampshire, which stuck close with the Bearcats in the final straightaway. However, Schaffer took the reigns on the anchor leg and pushed Binghamton to a first-place finish, clocking in at 7:33.44 to earn the relay title. However, the extra 10 points weren’t enough to propel the Bearcats out of fifth, and BU ended the weekend with an 89-point total. Albany also won the meet on the men’s side with a total of 139.
“Everybody performed extremely well, I really couldn’t be happier with how they did,” Thompson said. “Individually this is one of the best performances that we’ve had in a long time.”
Next weekend, the Bearcats will head to the University at Albany to compete at one of their last meets of the season.
“My season is definitely not done,” Baker said. “There’s a lot more left in the tank, there’s a lot more left to accomplish.”
The meet is scheduled for May 7 and starts at 10 a.m. in Albany, New York.