Over the weekend, the Binghamton men’s and women’s cross country teams participated in their second meet of the season at the Iona Meet of Champions. The women made it three straight seasons with a first-place finish in a team meet, as they took gold out of nine schools. The men finished fourth out of eight teams, with a pair of top-ten finishers.

“This is the strongest women’s team we’ve ever had, hands down, there’s no doubt about it,” said Binghamton head coach Annette Acuff. “We have the most depth and we have the most talent that we’ve ever had, so it’s an exciting year for [the] women. We just got to focus one week at a time and one meet at a time, and just worry about the present and not get too caught up in the future.”

The highlight of the meet came from a trifecta of women runners, as graduate students Aziza Chigatayeva and Sophia Ryan along with freshman Sydney Leitner took the top three places in the women’s 5k. Ryan led the charge, finishing far ahead of the pack in 17:48.00, while Chigatayeva crossed the line 15 seconds later in 18:03.20. In her first collegiate event, Leitner placed in the bronze position, recording a time of 18:08.30. This was also Ryan’s first event for the Bearcats after competing at Utah for four years before transferring to Binghamton. While those two are starting their BU careers in different ways, Chigatayeva is entering her fifth season as a Bearcat, and is coming off first-team all-conference honors last year.

“[Chigatayeva, Ryan and Leitner] are certainly all in great shape right now, so it was nice to see,” Acuff said. “Kind of a surprise that they took the top three individual places. I was hoping they would get challenged a little bit more because [Ryan] led the entire thing from start to finish and [Chigatayeva] was right there with her until the very end. But regardless, those times are quick on that course, so it was good to see where they’re at.”

Rounding out the women’s top-20 performances was senior Carolyn Burnell and sophomore Jennifer Mui, who finished in 12th and 18th places, respectively. Burnell recorded a time of 19:21.10 while Mui finished in 19:32.50. Graduate student Elisabeth Van Tassell, junior Sheridan Talada and senior Kyra Guerci all each finished in the top half of runners with 25th, 28th and 32nd finishes, respectively.

“[Burnell and Mui] ran super well for us and have improved a ton from last year,” Acuff said. “They certainly had outstanding races. It made a big difference for the women’s team performance.”

The men’s team fourth-place finish was headlined by senior Ryan Guerci, who finished in 25:12.70 in the five-mile run, good enough to place fourth. Junior Josh Stone was the other top-10 finisher with a time of 25:30.20. This weekend marked both Guerci and Stone’s first meets of the year. Both Bearcats are coming off top-20 finishes in the America East Championships last season.

“[Stone] missed a little bit of time so I thought his performance was pretty impressive, because he’s missed a little bit of training,” Acuff said. “I think that course is a lot harder on the men’s side too. They’ve got some extra hills that they have to run on the men’s side, but you know [Guerci’s] performance and [Stone’s], those two obviously had a pretty special day.”

Senior Matthew Cavaliere placed 20th two weeks at Colgate and replicated that top-20 finish with a 26:20.00 time, good enough for 16th. Senior Marty Dolan placed 20th, just over eight seconds behind Cavaliere with a time of 26:28.30. Graduate student Dan Gahagan rounded out BU’s top-five runners with a time of 27:19.00, placing right in the middle of runners at 34th out of 68 competitors.

“On the men’s side, we have a 37-men’s roster cap between cross country and track, so I don’t get to keep a large roster in men’s cross country,” Acuff said. “It’s tough for us … We’re tight on the men’s side, that’s not by choice. That’s just what we have to work with.”

The Bearcats are back in action at the Lehigh Paul Short Run. The first race is scheduled to take place on Friday, Sept. 30 at 9:30 a.m. on the Murray Goodman Cross Country Course in Bethlehem, PA.