Amid poor weather and adverse course conditions, the Binghamton men’s and women’s cross country teams had standout performances from their runners in Saturday’s America East (AE) Championships. Redshirt sophomore Dan Schaffer placed second in the men’s 8K behind graduate student Paul Hogan of UMass Lowell. Schaffer’s performance is a record for highest finish in the event by an underclassman in Binghamton history. Freshman Aziza Chigatayeva was crowned Rookie of the Meet for her third-place finish in the women’s 5K. Schaffer finished in 24:35.03, 16 seconds behind Hogan. Chigatayeva clocked in at 17:26:52, 36 seconds behind first place and nine seconds behind second place.
The men’s race was a close matchup between Schaffer and Hogan until Hogan was able to pull away on the final mile. Early on, junior Cameron Avery of Stony Brook and junior Victor Ortiz Rivera of Albany were contenders against Schaffer and Hogan; the two were able to separate themselves, and for a two-mile stretch, they failed to gain any lead on each other. Schaffer was the only underclassman to finish in the top five.
“[BU head coach Annette Acuff] set a goal for me to reach top five, which I think was realistic, and I feel like I definitely exceeded our expectations with my performance,” Schaffer said.
The last time a Binghamton runner placed as high as Schaffer was 2009, when Erik van Ingen and Chris Gaube placed first and second, respectively, in the conference meet.
“It was really exciting to find out that my run was the highest by an underclassman,” Schaffer said. “It was a big honor and exciting to do something like that and it shows myself my potential and where I can go from here.”
UMass Lowell prevailed, beating Stony Brook by one point, 43-44. The Bearcats finished third with a score of 103. Redshirt junior Daryn Hutchings placed 15th with a time of 25:21:67, while redshirt sophomore Mitch Halpern followed close behind in 21st place with a time of 25:34:53. Redshirt freshman Matt Goyden, who paired with Chigatayeva to sweep Rookie of the Meet awards, finished 35th at 26:00:68.
Chigatayeva’s performance was one for the books as well, as she is the first Bearcat to win the women’s Rookie of the Meet since the award’s introduction in 2015. She also tied for the highest finish by a Bearcat in the meet since Katie Radzik in 2005.
Going into the race, Annika Sisson, a senior from Stony Brook, was the favorite to take home the crown at this year’s conference meet. She was upset by Hannah Reinhardt, however, a junior from University of Albany. Chigatayeva’s performance came as a surprise, as coaches did not know what to expect from the freshman.
“I didn’t really go in with any expectations for myself in the race,” Chigatayeva said. “I was sort of nervous, but my goal was to make top seven, as that qualified me for first team, which is a great thing for me as a freshman.”
Chigatayeva and Sisson were able to challenge Reinhardt, but Reinhardt quickly pulled away halfway through the race and was the only runner to finish under the 17-minute mark.
“Chigatayeva was a fantastic competitor and you never know with freshman how they are going to handle conference meets, but she did much better than I expected,” Acuff said.
The women’s team finished 5th with a score of 122, while Albany came out on top with a score of 46. Senior Erika Yamazaki finished 22nd at 18:13:52, while redshirt sophomore Emily Mackay and junior Jessica Cueva-Scarpelli followed close behind at 25th and 26th, respectively, with times of 18:16:78 and 18:19:07.
Saturday’s weather played a part in each race, especially the women’s as the prior men’s race further tore up the course. Several runners fell, such as Hogan, who had visible mud on his face.
“It’s tougher competition with the weather,” Acuff said. “It made our kids have to be mentally tougher for the race, but overall it was tougher for everyone.”
The Bearcats run again on Nov. 9 at the NCAA Northeast Regional Meet in Buffalo, New York.