As the sun set on the NCAA Northeast Region Cross Country Championships in the Bronx, the Binghamton cross country teams concluded their seasons with an all-region finisher in graduate student Sophia Ryan and top-half places for both sides. The women registered their best-ever finish at the meet with 11th out of 37 teams, whereas the men snagged 16th of 33.
“It says a lot about our program and the consistency that we continue to have,” said Binghamton head coach Annette Acuff. “Men’s cross country [and] women’s cross country has steadily continued to improve, especially over the last three years. And if you look at the consistency with how we compete within our conference and within the region, and also, every few years, we’re sending someone maybe not so much in cross country but someone in track, a distance runner to the NCAA national meet. I think it says a lot about what we’re doing within both cross country and track and field, I’m really proud of the kids with their efforts this fall.”
Ryan wrapped her debut season for the Bearcats as just the third BU female athlete ever to be awarded All-Northeast Region honors. The Utah transfer made the 6k trip in 21:02.3, placing 16th out of 252 finishers. Ryan concludes the cross-country season with four top-30 finishes in as many races, highlighted by a first-place podium finish at the Iona Meet of Champions and a bronze spot in the America East Championships two weeks ago.
“[Ryan] had a great race,” Acuff said. “She certainly was able to perform, getting that all-region is fantastic. So that was definitely the goal … It was so consistent for us, that showed in the results and those are the type of performances that we really need to be consistently competitive at a high level. Finishing 11th for the women was a fantastic finish for us as a team.”
The usual suspects were right behind Ryan as freshman Sydney Leitner and graduate student Aziza Chigatayeva placed 41st and 43rd, respectively. Leitner’s time of 21:27.3 and place was good enough to nab the second-best freshman finish in program history at the Regional Championships.
“[Leitner’s] a freshman and placed 41st overall,” Acuff said. “A fantastic finish for a freshman.”
Chigatayeva concludes her collegiate cross country career with a time of 21:28.9. Last season, the graduate student placed 41st at the meet.
“[Chigatayeva] was right there with [Ryan] and they were pretty close together in the top 20,” Acuff said. “And then, unfortunately, she just started to run out of gas a little bit toward the very end, but she really put herself out there. So I was really proud of both of their performances.”
Junior Sheridan Talada and senior Carolyn Burnell rounded out the Bearcats’ top five with 112th and 132nd finishes, respectively. Talada made the trip in 22:38.1, with Burnell just 15 seconds behind with a time of 22:53 flat.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the entire program, all the women on our team,” Acuff said. “[Talada] was able to kind of move up, and it was fantastic to have her best day at the NCAA regional … so that made a big difference for us on Friday … Burnell, obviously was very consistent for us too. I think really adding her to her consistency made a big difference for our team performances this year.”
On the men’s side junior Josh Stone led the way, covering the 10k course in 30:46.7 and finishing in 52nd out of 227 finishers. Last year, Stone placed 67th at the Regional meet. Senior Matthew Cavaliere was nine seconds behind Stone in 59th. The Bearcats’ finish of 30:55.9 improved from a 90th-place spot from a year ago. The senior rounds off his BU cross-country career competing in four meets this season with his best finish at the AE Championships.
“[Stone’s] had a very solid consistent, I think, a very successful season,” Acuff said. “I thought [Stone and Cavaliere] really significantly help the program.”
Senior Ryan Guerci was the final Bearcat to finish in the top 100, placing 92nd. Senior Marty Dolan and freshman Andrew Rosenblatt finished out the top five for BU with 126th and 144th place finishes, respectively.
The men’s team finishes their season with a second place finish at the conference championships then a top-half spot this weekend.
“From the outside looking in, you wonder why you see a performance that’s subpar, and I think as a coach, you’ve learned to be patient, especially over the years a poor experience that you have, because things rarely work out perfectly in terms of a game or meet that you’re competing at,” Acuff said. “I think it’s really important to be patient with your athletes and your program and just continue to be very positive with what you’re doing and the vision that you have for your program and continue to try to move the needle forward.”
Both the women’s and men’s sides will return two of their top three runners for next year.
“We can kind of build off of what we achieved this year,” Acuff said.