With four of its scoring five from last year's America East title run coming back, the Albany Great Danes are a strong threat to defend their America East mens cross country crown this season. After winning its first ever title in 2011, several teams will be determine to prevent the Great Danes from repeating in 2012.
The aforementioned Great Danes lose individual runner-up Christopher Burke, but do return a trio of seniors in 2012, all of whom finished within the top 15 in last year's championship race. Paul Lagno (5th), Ethan Clary (8th) and Alex Lauchanka (13th) figure to be essential to Albany's repeat bid. Also returning is sophomore Chris Buchanan, who rounded out Albany's scoring five in the championship a year ago with a 32nd place finish.
Although Boston University is ineligible for this year's America East Championship, it is one of the region's top squads and will be starting the year ranked eighth in the USTFCCCA Northeast Region preseason poll. The Terriers, led by junior Rich Peters, finished ninth in the regional meet last season.
A third-place finisher last year, Maine lost the two-time defending individual champion in Riley Masters. However junior Alex Moser and senior Taylor Phillips, who finished 18th and 21st respectively in last year's conference meet, return to lead the Black Bears this season.
Binghamton put together a fourth-place finish in last year's championship, but it is certainly a threat to win it this season. The Bearcats lost no one from last year's squad and return four seniors for this season's campaign. This group includes Jeff Martinez, who redshirted a year ago after finishing fifth at the 2010 conference championship.
The heir to Riley Masters' individual championship throne might well be Stony Brook's Eric Speakman. The junior from New Zealand was the third-place finisher in last year's conference meet and also the top underclassman. He and classmate Dan Denis should form a nice 1-2 combo for the Seawolves in 2012.
Along with Albany's Lagno, Aaron Szotka of Vermont figures to be one of the top challengers to Speakman this season. The junior is the Catamounts' top returner and will look to pair with seniors Ethan McBrien and Andy Stillman to improve upon last year's sixth-place finish.
New Hampshire returns its top runner from last season in Daniel DeCrescenzo, who ran to a 12th place finish in last year's championship. DeCrescenzo is one of eight seniors on this year's veteran squad.
The only top-30 finishers for UMBC at last year's conference meet, junior Brandan McGee and senior TJ Cowing lead a team that finished eighth last year. The Retrievers have tons of youth in 2012, with eight freshmen representing nearly half of their roster.
Hartford, which is in its first season with new head coach Stephen Walsh, aims to improve upon its ninth-place finish in 2011. Graduate student Wayne Lawrence is the squad's top returner.
The 2012 season kicks off on Friday, Aug. 31 with New Hampshire hosting the College Woods run. Also this weekend are the opening meets for Albany, which is at the Monmouth Invitational, UMBC, which will run in the Spider Alumni Open, and Stony Brook, which hosts their season opener. The rest of the America East schools will begin the following weekend. Binghamton is at the Army Tri-Meet on Friday, Sept. 7, while Hartford (Trinity Invite), Maine (at UMass) and Boston U. (Bryant Invitational) all begin on Saturday. Vermont is the last to open, as it will host the Vermont Invitational on Sunday, Sept. 9.
The season will culminate on Saturday Oct. 27 at the University of New Hampshire, which will host the 2012 America East Championship.