Over the weekend, the Binghamton track and field teams competed at the NCAA East Regional Meet. With NCAA Outdoor Championship qualifications up for grabs, redshirt seniors Dan Schaffer and Emily Mackay both capitalized on the opportunity and will race at the national meet next week.
“It was fantastic,” said Binghamton head coach Annette Acuff. “To have two kids qualify for nationals … It’s the first time I’ve had two national qualifiers so it’s pretty special.”
During the Bearcat’s third trip to the regional meet, Schaffer competed in the 5k race on Friday night. The senior student was in the first of two heats and placed sixth in his heat with a time of 13:39.37. The top five times of each heat plus the next two fastest times qualified, meaning Schaffer had to wait for the second heat to finish to find out if he qualified. Schaffer’s time beat the second heat’s top finish by over three seconds, qualifying him for the NCAA Championships for the first time in his career.
By earning a spot in the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Schaffer becomes Binghamton’s first male athlete to qualify since Jesse Garn in 2016. Additionally, he is the fourth men’s runner in the BU program’s history to make it to the national meet, joining Garn, Rory Quiller and Erik van Ingen.
“There’s definitely a little less pressure and expectation on [Schaffer],” Acuff said. “He really wants to run well. He wants to try and finish [in the] top 16.”
Mackay qualified for the national meet with a third-place finish in the 1500-meter finals on Saturday. She broke her own school record with a time of 4:11.65. The previous record of 4:13.57 was set earlier this season at the Virginia Challenge.
“[Mackay] definitely wants to make the final,” Acuff said. “She’s got a little bit more on her plate because she’s had more interest running professionally. So she has that added stress … She ran so fast indoors and that really caught a lot of people’s attention.”
The redshirt senior will return to the NCAA Championships for the fifth time in her collegiate career. Mackay previously qualified for the national meet in cross country the past two years — the indoor meet back in March and last year’s outdoor meet.
“They all felt great,” Acuff said. “That’s pretty much how they ran well … Timing is everything. You gotta be ready to go when it counts.”
On Saturday, redshirt junior Aziza Chigatayeva nearly qualified for the national meet herself with a 16th place finish in the 3k steeplechase. Her time of 10:06.77 bested a school record that the Bearcat set at the Virginia Challenge.
“[Chigateyeva] almost made it [to nationals] herself,” Acuff said. “She was 16th, top 12 made it, so she was just a few spots out and ran a huge [personal record] … I think that certainly got her pretty excited about her potential … She had a really great year.”
Graduate student Brittany Korsah also competed in the regional meet, placing 39th in the triple jump. This was the last meet of her career, and she capped it off with a jump of 39-10.5 feet.
Schaffer and Mackay are the first pair of Bearcats since 2015 to qualify for the NCAA meet in the same season. Mackay is now tied for the second-most trips to the NCAA Championships in Binghamton’s Division I program history.
“It kind of brings things full circle,” Acuff said. “They both had their fair share of challenges throughout their careers … It’s awesome to be able to see them finish at the national level … I’ve been fortunate to have them for a while.”
Schaffer and Mackay will compete at the NCAA Outdoor Championships from Wednesday, June 8 to Saturday, June 11. The meet will be held at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.