The Binghamton University men’s and women’s cross country teams faced a tough field at the Princeton Invitational Friday afternoon, but freshman Aziza Chigatayeva was undaunted by the competition. Rookie Chigatayeva completed the 6K distance event at West Windsor Fields in 22 minutes and 15 seconds, leading the women’s squad for the second time this season. She was the fourth-fastest freshman in a large group of experienced collegiate runners.
“Aziza definitely had a fantastic 6K and that was just her second 6K of the season,” said BU head coach Annette Acuff. “As a freshman, she’s fearless.”
She finished 26th out of 222 runners and crossed the finish line one minute and 52 seconds after senior Caroline Alcorta of Villanova, the meet’s winner on the women’s side. Alcorta was followed in quick, uninterrupted succession by her teammate Nicole Hutchinson and sophomore Lauren Ryan, securing Villanova’s victory.
Overall, the BU women’s team finished 18th out of 22 squads. Senior Erika Yamazaki finished second for the Bearcats, with a time of 23:11, and sophomore Kaylee Stone was the third BU runner to complete the course, with a time of 23:39. The team edged out its conference rivals, the UMBC Retrievers, who were hot on their heels in 19th place.
On the men’s side, Princeton junior Conor Lundy led the Tigers to victory with a time of 23:55 for the 8K distance, securing a win for himself and the host school. Villanova accompanied its women’s team’s triumphant performance with a strong showing and a second place finish. Meanwhile, the Bearcats finished 17th out of 22 squads, sandwiched between conference rivals Stony Brook in 15th place and UMBC in 18th.
As far as individual performances, redshirt junior Daryn Hutchings was Binghamton’s fastest male competitor, clocking in at 25:09 for the 8K distance. He placed 52nd in a field of 219 runners, building upon his solid season. At the previous meet, Hutchings finished with a time of 25:41 and placed second for the team. Redshirt sophomore Mitch Halpern and redshirt sophomore David Leff finished second and third for BU with times of 25:13 and 25:41, respectively.
A few names were conspicuously absent from the Princeton invitational rosters. Junior Jessica Cueva-Scarpelli and redshirt sophomore Dan Schaffer, consistent top performers for their squads, did not race on Friday. Schaffer won the previous meet, the Brown Race at the Lehigh Paul Short Cross Country run, and was named the AE men’s cross country Performer of the Week earlier this month.
Acuff confirmed that two of the top five women and two of the top five men were absent, and explained that they are resting for the upcoming AE Championships.
The Bearcats have not attended the Princeton Invitational since 2014, when just the men’s squad participated, placing 11th out of 37 teams. Acuff noted that the meet is more competitive than the Albany meet that the teams have attended for the past few years, but the squads were up to the challenge.
“Our teams were stronger this year, on both the men’s and women’s sides,” Acuff said.
The meet was an important opportunity for individual runners to test their abilities against a competitive field and gain self-assurance as the final meets of the season approach. Acuff believed that they accomplished this goal.
“More than anything, the Princeton meet helped a lot of kids gain a lot more confidence going into the championships,” Acuff said.
The Bearcats will look to use that freshly honed confidence at the AE Championships on Oct. 27. The competition will be hosted by UMass Lowell.