At last year’s America East (AE) Indoor Track and Field Championships, the Binghamton men’s and women’s teams finished second and third, respectively. This year, though, both squads have their work cut out for them as two All-Americans will not compete for the Bearcats this season. The men’s team has lost star middle-distance runner Jesse Garn to graduation, while the women’s side will not feature sprinter and jumper Keishorea Armstrong, who will redshirt this year.
“With Jesse [Garn] going to the Olympic Trials and signing a professional track contract, and many more of our athletes graduating and pursuing careers beyond athletics, we are looking for a lot of our younger runners to step up and meet the challenge,” said BU head coach Mike Thompson. “This year will show us who is ready to take that next step.”
Garn competed in the 800-meter at the U.S. Olympic Trials in July before signing with the New Jersey*New York Track Club the following month. His most notable achievement during his time at Binghamton was a fourth-place finish in the 800-meter at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Although filling Garn’s shoes will be more than difficult, Thompson expects the men’s middle distance and pole vault groups to have no trouble competing this season.
“That’s where we have the most depth,” Thompson said. “[Senior] Jon Alkins is a big name as far as this program goes, and [senior] Peter Fagan was the conference champion last year in indoors for pole vaults. [Senior] Eric Holt and [junior] Ted Okon are also extremely valuable pieces to this team who will definitely boost our scoring margins.”
As a junior last season, Alkins took home gold in the 200-meter dash at the AE Indoor Championship, finishing with a time of 21.39. Alkins just missed earning his second gold medal of the meeting in the 60-meter dash, losing by three hundredths of a second to Albany freshman Osiris Nicholson.
“I know he’s looking to really get after it this year,” Thompson said. “He’s very capable of taking home multiple golds at the championship. He just needs to continue to stay focused, and take one meet at a time.”
Thompson is curious to see how the women’s team team will perform without Armstrong, who is redshirting this season to preserve her eligibility for next year.
“On the women’s side, the strength of the team is mainly jumps and sprints,” Thompson said. “Keishorea [Armstrong] has shown that she can excel in both events, as she was a huge part of our success last season.”
At last year’s AE Indoor Championship, Armstrong was seeded first in four events, and finished first in both the 60-meter dash (7.45 seconds), and the long jump (6.08 meters). She also earned the Coaches’ Award at the conference indoor championship for most points scored (20).
“It won’t be easy without her, but she will still be a huge part of the team, mentoring younger runners and being a vocal leader throughout the program,” Thompson said. “Plus, we still have athletes like [seniors] Sarah Haley and Sarah Osaheni who are veterans, and know what needs to be done in order to be successful.”
The 2016-17 season will be Thompson’s 22nd coaching the Bearcats. He has been with the program through its transition from Division III to Division II and finally to Division I.
“The team as a whole is much more focused than it used to be,” Thompson said. “There is more emphasis on getting better throughout the entire team now, which makes me believe that our team will only become better.”
The Bearcats are set to kick off their season at the Greg Page Relays, hosted by Cornell University, on Saturday. The meet is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. in Ithaca, New York.