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Jesse Garn can say he is having a great semester: The junior recently broke the four-minute mile.
Photo by Jonathan King
Garn is more than just a track star
April 7, 2014Tweet
For the past two months, junior middle distance runner Jesse Garn has been representing Binghamton University on some of the biggest stages of college track and field.
In February, he competed at the Millrose Games, which were aired on NBCSN. After being named the Most Outstanding Men’s Track Performer at the America East Indoor Championships (which were held Feb. 23-24), he broke four minutes in the mile on March 2. One week later, Garn anchored Binghamton’s winning 4 x 800 relay team at the IC4A Championships.
Garn, however, has represented Binghamton University in many other ways over the past year. Last summer, he worked as a tour guide on campus in the Admissions Office. He is also heavily involved with the BU Zoo, a student-run spirit group that supports the University’s athletics teams. On more than one occasion, Garn has even dressed up as Baxter the Bearcat, the University’s mascot that shows up for special events.
The passion Garn has for Binghamton can be traced back to when he attended Marcellus High School. Long before he won a state title in the 1,000 his senior year, he was already looking ahead to college.
“I had known Binghamton was a good academic school since my junior year of high school, which is when I began contacting them with an interest in running here,” he said. “Recognizing that the distance program had already begun grinding out (four-time All-American) Erik van Ingen, I knew I would receive great training for the middle distance events. When I took my official visit, I couldn’t believe how comfortable I felt. I loved the campus, and fit in with the team right away.”
Garn was injured his freshman cross country season, but began scoring points at the conference meets during the ensuing track campaign. He even advanced to the NCAA Outdoor East Regional finals in the 800. Garn’s veteran teammates were quickly impressed with both his talent and demeanor.
“I have always thought of Jesse as a very outgoing guy who can make conversation with anybody and be anybody’s pal,” senior Vasili Papastrat said. “He has always fit in perfectly with this team and has been a role model.”
Away from the track, Garn was a regular at many other athletic events on campus his freshman year. In the stands with him was Andrew Loso, a friend of his who wanted to help build student spirit. A few years earlier, the BU Zoo was a big source of such. In the spring of 2013, Loso told Garn he wanted to reignite the group.
“I wouldn’t call the school spirit at Binghamton dull when I came in as a freshman, but there was certainly room for improvement,” Garn said. “When Andrew came to me with the idea of jump-starting the BU Zoo, I was on board immediately.”
Last spring, Garn advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Regional Meet for the second year in a row. He also won the 1,500 at the America East Outdoor Track Championships. When he wasn’t competing, however, Garn was at other athletic events, passing out fliers on behalf of the BU Zoo.
“Jesse has been an excellent addition to our group,” Loso said. “With a process that is such a grassroots effort, it’s great to have someone on our team who is so often in the spotlight and can lead others to become committed.”
Following his sophomore track season, Garn stayed on campus to take summer classes. With no meets or other athletic events, he had more free time than usual. His parents suggested he fill the void by working as a tour guide.
“My parents know how sociable I am on top of having an excitable personality, so they thought I would be good at it,” he said. “I liked the thought of being one to sell Binghamton for all it has, and it was easier done with all that the school really does have to offer. It was a unique experience and I may pursue it again in the future.”
Although he only was able to be a tour guide during the summer, Garn made a favorable impression with people in the Binghamton University Admissions Department.
“Jesse wore his Binghamton University pride in his smile and charm,” Assistant Admissions Director Craig Broccoli said. “Tour guides are hired based on their ability to authentically represent Binghamton, and that is exactly what Jesse did. His ambition and witty character was a big hit with families and his co-workers. It was clear that he truly wanted to represent Binghamton.”
During that summer, Garn continued to train for the upcoming cross country season. Sometimes he came to the Admissions Office right afterwards. His demeanor, however, was always the same.
“Even after a workout, Jesse always had boundless energy,” Broccoli said. “He was always willing to do something extra, or do something a bit out of the way for our visiting families and guests.”
When he wasn’t meeting with prospective students last summer, Garn was welcoming incoming students…without saying a word. He volunteered to dress up as Baxter the Bearcat at several freshman orientation events.
“They needed a volunteer and I was ready to help out,” he said. “I figured, how often does a person get a chance to be THE school mascot. At the orientation events, the incoming freshmen were told that they were now Bearcats. I walked into the room as Baxter and got a lot of applause, even though no one knew who I was. It was very exciting.”
“Jesse was a great mascot,” Loso said. “He certainly had a lot of energy and Garn-like spunk that pumped the crowd up.”
If anyone is familiar with Garn’s qualities as a person, it’s Annette Acuff, who is the head cross country and assistant track coach at Binghamton. In the past two years, she has coached him at big track meets all over the country.
“He listens and communicates well, trusts in what we’re doing, and has a positive outlook no matter what the outcome is,” she said. “He usually has a smile on his face and is raring to go. Without a doubt his character has certainly played a huge role in his success.”
“Most of the credit for my success goes to Coach Acuff,” Garn said. “She was familiar with my high school training and knew where to go from there with me. The biggest thing she has done for me is maintain an unparalleled confidence in myself and my ability. Never has she doubted my potential, and the high goals we’ve set have become realistic with each passing season.”
During Garn’s indoor season, many of the other people he worked with on campus were paying close attention. This was especially true after he broke four minutes in the mile at the Boston/Last Chance Meet on March 2.
“When Jesse broke four minutes, the BU Zoo was at a men’s basketball game at the Events Center,” Loso said. “Dave Simek (the P.A. announcer) announced the news to the whole Events Center and, expectedly, we all freaked out. It gave us a lot of energy to finish cheering strong that day.”
“A group of us (in Admissions) followed Jesse’s season closely,” Broccoli said. “But a lot more people around the office became aware of him running at the Millrose Games and breaking four minutes in the mile.”
Garn will redshirt this coming outdoor season. That means he has two more years of eligibility in both indoor and outdoor track. His final cross country season will be this coming fall. The obvious future goal for Garn and Acuff is making the NCAA Championships. Should that goal be realized, some people on campus will be ready.
“All of us in the BU Zoo are already planning on throwing a viewing party if he makes NCAAs,” Loso said. “We will be with him every step of the way.”
Regardless of what transpires the next two years, Garn will continue to savor his time at Binghamton University. Whether he is in the spotlight, in the stands, giving a guided tour or being the mascot, he takes great pride in representing a place that he loves.
“I recognized quickly that Binghamton University had a lot to offer and felt it was the place for me,” he said. “With two years yet to come, I have already made countless memories and friends that will last a lifetime. Choosing to come to Binghamton was the best decision I’ve ever made, and I am proud to call myself a Bearcat.”