On Friday, the Binghamton cross country teams made the trip to one of the most prestigious collegiate meets in the country at the Lehigh Paul Short Run. After everyone crossed the finish line, the women placed in the top half of teams at 21st out of 46 teams, whereas a depleted men’s squad finished 44th.
“The Lehigh Meet is probably gonna be one of the most competitive meets in the country this year,” said Binghamton head coach Annette Acuff. “On the women’s side, we had everyone healthy. Everyone was there and got a chance to compete, so it went really well … On the men’s side, we’re missing several guys, unfortunately. We couldn’t change the race assignment last minute.”
The highlight of the race for Binghamton came from graduate student Sophia Ryan, who recorded the fastest time ever for a BU women’s runner in the 6k. Ryan crossed the finish line in 20:05.1, which was enough for 24th place, but would have been ninth at last year’s meet. This marks the second consecutive race where Ryan was BU’s top runner on the women’s side, as the Utah transfer won the Iona Meet of Champions two weeks ago.
“That’s a great performance for [Ryan],” Acuff said. “I know that’s her lifetime best in cross country. The top 25 this year is way more competitive. I would say it was probably twice as competitive this year on the women’s side than last year, looking at the field and the teams that were there, and the times showed it.”
After Ryan, graduate student Aziza Chigatayeva finished the race in 20:23.1, while freshman Sydney Leitner crossed the line in 20:39.4, finishing in 47th and 75th places, respectively, out of 417 runners. Both times would have led them to finish much higher in last year’s event, as Chigatayeva’s finish would have placed 13th and Leitner’s 28th. This year’s race included 74 more runners than last year.
“It’s just a different field this year, [it] was a lot more competitive,” Acuff said. “I wouldn’t go off of place, I would go off of time because it’s the same course and that is consistent. If you look at the times, the times are fantastic. I told our girls, don’t let the places fool you because there are 47 teams … and [Chigatayeva] and [Leitner] had fantastic races for themselves. [Leitner’s] a freshman, so that was her first 6k and that went really well. It can be a bit overwhelming, the first time around a big meet like that, but she handled it incredibly well.”
The men’s side was down a handful of runners and had only one runner place in the top half of the competition. Senior Matthew Cavaliere finished the men’s 8k in 24:32.9, placing 170th. This marks the third time this season that Cavaliere has placed in the front half of a race and the second time he has been the men’s top runner.
“[Cavaliere] ran a fantastic race, that was great for him,” Acuff said. “So I was really pleased with his performance, and our freshmen guys had some great performances, that was their first 8k ever. It was great to be able to get them in a good competitive 8k so they’re better prepared for their conference meet and their regional meet down the road.”
Seniors Ryan Guerci and Marty Dolan, who each placed in the top 20 at their last race, were unable to participate in the event.
“We’re still trying to kind of get everyone healthy and ready to go,” Acuff said. “Especially for a conference meet. We won’t compete [with] everyone at ECAC/IC4A in a couple of weeks, but we’ll compete [with] most of the men’s team if they’re healthy. So unfortunately, I just didn’t have everyone healthy and sometimes that’s the way it goes.”
The men’s team competed in the Men’s College Gold while the women’s team competed in the Women’s College Gold.
The Bearcats are next scheduled to compete at the ECAC/IC4A Championships on Friday, Oct. 14. The first race is set for noon at a location that is to be determined.