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Cross country ready to launch 2013 campaign

Veteran men’s team, young women’s squad gear up for season

September 5, 2013


Cross country ready to launch 2013 campaign

Vasili Papastrat

2013 Binghamton Cross Country E-Guide

MEN’S OUTLOOK

The Binghamton men’s cross country team is poised to return to the upper echelon of the America East in 2013. After redshirting some of its top runners the past two seasons and battling injuries last year, the Bearcats hope this is the season when all of the pieces finally come together.

“The men’s team has a lot of depth and talent this year if we can stay healthy,” head coach Annette Acuff said. “We have a lot of leadership and maturity which I believe should help us as much as anything. On paper, this team looks to be one of our best teams ever.”

In 2009, Binghamton won the America East title. The following season, it was the runner up at the conference meet. Fifth-year seniors Jeff Martinez, Vasili Papastrat and Jason Santos were all a part of both those teams and return to anchor this year’s squad.

Martinez earned all-conference honors his first two seasons, placing 10th at the 2009 conference meet and was a team-best fifth overall in 2010. After redshirting in 2011, he struggled with injuries last season.

While Martinez redshirted in 2011, Papastrat broke through with a team-best ninth-place finish at the conference meet. Santos, meanwhile, was 22nd overall. Both runners redshirted last season with the goal of being reunited with Martinez for one last push this year.

“Jeff, Vasili and Jason bring a lot of great experience and leadership to the team this year,” Acuff said. “All three were around during our championship team’s run in 2009 and know what we need to do this year to get back to the top of the conference.  They are all like assistant coaches to me on and off the course.”

Two other seniors returning this year are Ben Snodgrass and Chris Fernandez. Both of them raced at the conference meet last year and Fernandez was 37th at the 2011 meet.

This year’s junior class also returns with significant experience. Matt Johnson was a team-best 16th overall at last season’s conference meet. Collin Frost was 20th as a freshman. Jesse Garn, meanwhile, bounced back from a tough conference meet during the cross country season to nearly make the NCAA Championships in the 1,500 during the outdoor track season. Cal Michaels was 24th at the 2011 conference meet but missed last season due to injuries.

“Our junior class has gained a lot of experience and matured over the past couple of years,” Acuff said. “They have all had their struggles as freshmen and sophomores, but I believe they are the healthiest and most confident now and are ready to make a big impact for us this year.  There is certainly a lot of talent within that class.”

Sophomores Ethan Hausamann and Jon Vallecorsa were both mainstays among the team’s top seven last year. Freshman Eric Holt, meanwhile, arrives from Carmel (N.Y.) High School, where he won the mile at the New York State Outdoor Track Championships last year and was a NYSSWA first-team all-state selection during the cross country season.

“Some of our younger guys could surprise people this year,” Acuff said. “Ethan and Jon were both very inexperienced last year, but they work extremely hard and are eager to see what they can accomplish this year to help out the team.  We also have a lot of talent in Eric Holt and some redshirt freshmen who will be competing this year.  I expect to see all of them have some great success their first year competing for us”

WOMEN’S OUTLOOK

On the women’s side, Binghamton is looking to build upon a fifth-place finish at last season’s America East Meet. A strong sophomore class and a promising freshman group give the Bearcats potential heading into the 2013 campaign.

“The women’s team has some of the best talent we’ve ever had,” Acuff said. “We were very young last year so I believe we can improve a lot on last year’s performances.  A lot of girls have come back from the summer really fit.  We have seen a lot of improvement in fitness from a year ago and that’s always exciting.  We have a smaller team this year so we really have to focus on staying healthy.”

Senior Caitlin Jelinek and sophomores Alexis Hatcher and Lizzie Greiner are the top returning veterans.

Jelinek was slowed by injuries to start the 2012 season but was the team’s second-highest finisher at the NCAA Northeast Regional Meet. Two season’s ago, she was Binghamton’s top finisher at the America East Championships with a 31st-place effort.

“I look forward to helping Caitlin finish her cross country career on a great note,” Acuff said. “She has always worked very hard and I think she now has the experience and confidence to take her running to the next level.”

Hatcher and Greiner were in the team’s top five throughout last season. At the America East meet, they placed 27th and 32nd respectively. During the conference outdoor track meet, they both finished in the top-six of the 3,000 Steeplechase. Fellow sophomore Naomi Barnett was also in the squad’s top five during all of last year.

“We have several sophomores who ran very well for us last year as freshmen and look great going into this year,” Acuff said. “ I think all of them will see some big improvements.”

Headlining this year’s freshman class are Eileen O’Hara and Alana MacDonald. O’Hara arrives from Webster-Thomas High School, where she won the New York State 1,500 title during the outdoor track season. O’Hara was a fourth-team NYSSWA All-State selection in 2012 while MacDonald, who comes from Rush-Henrietta, was named to the sixth team.

“We’re really excited about Alana and Eileen,” Acuff said. “Both will really help us out a lot this year.  I look forward to helping them have a successful freshman year.”

SCHEDULE

Without question, the highlight of the cross country season for Binghamton is hosting the America East Championship on Nov. 2. It marks the first time since 2005 that the meet will be run on the Bearcats’ home course. To prepare for that race, Binghamton opens up the season with the Pre-Conference meet at home on Sept. 7.

Stony Brook swept the conference team titles last season and are both ranked No. 12 in the USTFCCCA Northeast Region Preseason Polls. UMBC (No. 14) and Maine (No. 15) are also ranked on the men’s side while Vermont (No. 13) and New Hampshire (No. 14) appear in the women’s poll.

On the road, Binghamton heads to the Buffalo Stampede (Sept. 21) and the Lehigh Paul Short Run (Oct. 5). The men also take part in the Princeton Invitational (Oct. 19) while the women are at the Central Connecticut Mini-Meet on Oct. 25.

The NCAA Northeast Regional Meet (Nov. 16) and ECAC/IC4A Championships (Nov. 23) both return to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

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