Five-time defending conference champion Stony Brook headlines four America East women's cross country squads that are ranked in the USTFCCCA Northeast Regional poll. Along with the Seawolves (No. 9), New Hampshire (No. 12), Vermont (No. 13) and Boston University (No. 15) represent the conference in the Northeast top 15. Three of those schools should vie for the 2012 America East title.
The Seawolves lost the conference individual champion in Hayley Green and also the sixth-place finisher in Partricia Barry. However, Stony Brook does have the luxury of returning two more top 10 finishers in senior Annie Keown and junior Olivia Burne. After those two there are some questions, but they will look to seniors Mary O'Connor and Page Price in their quest for a sixth straight conference title.
Boston U., which is ineligible for this year's conference championship, returns junior Rosa Moriello who finished 18th in last year's New England Regional. She will have her sights set on besting that mark as she and senior Nikki Long hope to propel their squad to another top 15 regional showing.
New Hampshire senior Keely Maguire placed fourth in last year's conference meet and was the first non-senior to cross the finish line. She figures to be the favorite to take this year's individual crown, along with junior teammate Elise Beattie and Stony Brook's Keown and Burne. The Wildcats also return senior Darcy James and sophomore Chelsey Serrano, both of whom were top 30 finishers in the 2011 championship.
Vermont finished in fourth place at last year's conference meet powered by a top 10 finish from Morgan Powers. Having lost her to graduation, the Catamounts will count on two top 20 finishers from 2011 in junior Yolanda Ngarambe and senior Kirsten Weberg. Vermont boasts a veteran roster with just two sophomores competing this season.
After finishing in fifth place a year ago, Albany figures to improve further after placing four runners in the top 25 in the 2011 championship. The Great Danes are led by junior Kathryn Fanning and senior Emily Finnegan.
Binghamton returns four of its scoring five runners from last year's conference championship, led by senior Rachel Miura, who finished fifth at 2005 conference championship. Junior Caitlin Jelinek also returns to a squad that The Bearcats graduated just one member from a year ago.
Maine lost just one of its top finishers from last year's championship meet. The Black Bears will look to sophomore Carolyn Stocker, who placed 45th in the 2011 championship, to improve upon their seventh place finish in 2011.
Keri Wilson, the top runner for UMBC in 2011, has joined the coaching staff for a squad that has more than doubled in size. Competing with just seven runners a year ago, the Retrievers now boast 15 runners, including junior Cody Mezebish.
Hartford brings a very young roster into the 2012 season for new head coach Stephen Walsh. After finishing ninth in last year's championship, the Hawks are without a senior runner for 2012. However they do return junior Megan Barry, who was a top 30 finisher at last year's conference meet.
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.