In their first outdoor meet of the season, the Binghamton track and field teams traveled to Easton, Pennsylvania to compete in the Leopard Invitational hosted by Lafayette College. In addition to the meet in Pennsylvania, redshirt senior Aziza Chigatayeva competed in the Raleigh Relays hosted by NC State where she competed in the women’s 3k steeplechase.

Chigatayeva ran a school record 9:58.02 in the steeplechase, around eight seconds faster than the previous school record of 10:06.77 which was also set by Chigatayeva. This was good enough to finish third at the Raleigh Relays in the event and third overall in the East Region rankings. The top 48 performances in the steeplechase will qualify for the NCAA East Regional meet hosted by the University of North Florida from May 24-27.

“The 9:58 puts [Chigatayeva] in a really good spot for the NCAA East Regional Meet,” said Binghamton head coach Annette Acuff. “That time should definitely hold for all of qualifying for that meet at the end of May. That was really the big goal, to get a good time for the regional meet to kickstart the outdoor season. She’s in fantastic shape. She’s in the best shape of her life no doubt and has worked really, really hard to get to this level.”

Coach Acuff believes this strong start will allow Chigatayeva to focus more on training in order to prepare for the Regional meet later this season in May.

“This puts her in a really good place,” Acuff said. ”I think it takes the pressure off of her. I think that was the goal too — we wanted to reach the Regional qualifier mark early. Now she can spend more time training, and we’re not chasing the time or performance to make sure she makes regionals. I’m confident that her time will hold for regionals. She’s not competing now for a few weeks until we go to Bucknell, and then she’ll compete in a competitive 1,500-meter race there, and again at the steeplechase in Virginia.”

Despite running in rainy and windy conditions in Pennsylvania, the men’s and women’s teams competing in the Leopard Invitational were able to combine for a total of 12 individual wins and one relay crown.

“I thought that everyone coped with the weather well,” said Binghamton head coach Mike Thompson. “Attitudes were good. [The weather] really sucked. It was about as bad as it could’ve been without cancelling the meet, so I was really happy with everyone’s attitude despite the conditions. It was absolutely miserable, and I was really proud of how all the individual winners and just people in general did considering the conditions.”

The Bearcats continued their dominance in the 3,000 steeplechase, sweeping the event on the men’s and the women’s sides. Senior Marty Dolan took first in the men’s race with a time of 9:39.40 while senior Carolyn Burnell won the women’s race with a time of 11:41.86.

Other winners in the men’s races included senior Ryan Guerci in the 1,500 (4:04.87), senior Adrian Rippstein in the 110 hurdles (17.01), senior Mark Scanlon in the 400 (50.93), freshman Samson Joseph in the 100 (11.22), junior Brandon Love in the pole vault (15-8.25) and senior Matthew Cavaliere in the 800 (1:55.51).

On the women’s side, first-place winners included freshman Sydney Leitner in the 1,500 (4:55.90), senior Cecilia Maillet in the long jump (17-4.25) and sophomore Zoe Rose in the 400 (1:04.10). The women’s team also won a relay thanks to the 4×100 team of senior Gabby Hyatt, freshman Angie Mesa-Espinosa, senior Sophia Morone and junior Jenna Chan who registered a time of 50.40.

“The throwers will be at Towson, and the weather looks like it’s going to be good down there,” Thompson said. “Hopefully we’ll see some personal bests and some big throws. The same with William and Mary. It’s going to be really warm down there. The biggest challenge at William Mary is going to be competing in the exact opposite conditions that we had at Lafayette, competing in weather that is much warmer than the weather we see throughout the entire outdoor season. It will be really nice to be in some warm weather with some really good competition as well.”

The Bearcats will continue their outdoor season with two meets next weekend. Some of the team will travel to Williamsburg, Virginia for the Colonial Relays from Friday, March 31 to Saturday, April 1 while the other half of the team will travel to Towson, Maryland for the Towson Invitational during the same days.