At the two-day America East (AE) indoor championships, the Binghamton men’s and women’s track and field teams posted one of their strongest overall performances at an indoor conference meet in years.
“I thought both sides performed extremely well,” said Binghamton head coach Mike Thompson. “We were hoping for second on the women’s side and thought we had a chance to win, but that ended up not being the case. Despite not getting second, I thought they performed very well. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Both the men and women finished third overall. However, on day one of the meet, the men ended the night in second with the women trailing behind in sixth.
The men got off to an early start on Friday after sweeping two separate field events. Senior Casey Gribben opened up the field scoring for BU after earning his third-straight AE pole vault indoor title with a winning clearance of 15-09.00 feet. Senior Jake Restivo immediately followed suit in the next event, recording his first-ever AE crown in the long jump with a leap of 23-10.75 feet on his fourth attempt. Restivo not only earned 10 points for his school but also posted Binghamton’s first-ever AE title in the long jump.
The Bearcat men sporadically tallied points as the day went on, but Binghamton’s next big contribution did not come until Friday’s final event. In the men’s 4000-meter distance medley relay, Binghamton was stuck trailing UMass Lowell heading into the last leg. However, just as UMass Lowell graduate student Derek Holmes began to round the final lap of the race, redshirt senior Dan Schaffer shot past the River Hawk, leaving Holmes in the dust as he crossed the finish line with a mile split of 3:56.13 and an overall relay time of 9:42.02. The BU time broke a 13-year-old AE record in the event.
The Binghamton women’s 4000-meter distance medley relay also emerged victorious on Friday afternoon. Unlike the men’s race, however, the women’s relay was not close. BU pulled away with a time of 11:37.87, which was 27 seconds ahead of second-place UNH. The gold-medal finish earned 10 points for the Bearcats to propel them into sixth as the day came to a close.
Heading into day two of the meet, the women swiftly pulled themselves out of sixth and toward the top of the leaderboard. In the 200-meter dash final, two Bearcats competed to tally eight points. In the following 400-meter dash, three BU athletes took to the oval and tallied another 17 points. Then, in the 500-meter race, senior Stephanie Cassens won her first-ever AE title, running a time of 1:12.84 to finish less than a second off of the conference record in the event.
“Everyone who was in position to win did win for the most part,” Thompson said.
Redshirt senior Emily Mackay prolonged Binghamton’s momentum on the oval, winning the 800-meter race with an AE and BU record time of 2:03.49. Her title-winning performance is currently ranked ninth in the nation. Even though UMass Lowell and UNH won the following two events, respectively, BU showed no signs of cooling down. Shortly after redshirt junior Aziza Chigatayeva and Mackay took first and second in the women’s 3K event, sophomore Jenna Chan won the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.61 after running a school-record time of 8.55 in Friday’s preliminaries.
“If you look at the personnel on these teams, I’d put them up there with some of the best teams we’ve ever had,” Thompson said. “The women’s team, this probably is the best team we’ve ever had.”
The women finished with 122 points, right on the tails of UMass Lowell which had 126.5 in second place.
“I’m very proud of how we performed this year,” Thompson said. “Year after year at the conference meet, we always seem to perform at our best. I’m always proud of that, I’m always proud of the people on this team because they do work hard … This group is as good of a group, men and women, that we’ve ever had. Maybe the best teams we’ve had.”
The BU men looked to hold on to second place heading into Saturday but were overtaken by UAlbany as the Great Danes dominated the sprinting events early on. Schaffer made up some ground after winning the mile with a time of 4:07.72 but was unable to contend with the point tallies of UAlbany or the sea of UMass Lowell blue trailing close behind him in the mile.
“Roster size has always been a problem for us,” Thompson said. “We’re never going to have rosters as big as Albany or [UMass Lowell], but we always have great individuals and we take a lot of pride in that. I feel like we do an exceptional job developing the people we have, and many times we just get beat by sheer numbers.”
UMass Lowell tallied 215 points to win the AE title. UAlbany was second with 172 points, and BU was far behind the front runners with 115 points.
With the AE championships wrapped up, Binghamton still has more indoor competitions lined up before it returns to the outdoor track.
“Preparation-wise, it’s just sharpening up,” Thompson said. “The volume of training will be lower. The intensity will still be there but much lower volume. [We’re] just trying to get sharp going into the final championship meets of the year.”
Binghamton’s next meet at the Eastern College Athletic Conference/IC4A is scheduled for Friday, March 4 through Sunday, March 6. The meet is set to start at 10 a.m. at the Boston University Track & Tennis Center in Boston, Massachusetts.