The UMBC men's and women's cross country squads open their 2017 campaigns in traditional style, as both squads travel to Emmitsburg, Md., to take part in the Mount St. Mary's Dual 5k's on Friday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.
The Retrievers have debuted at Mount St. Mary's in each of the last four seasons and 11 of the last 13 campaigns.
The men's field will consist of American, Franklin Pierce, George Washington, Mount St. Mary's and UMBC, while the women's field features the same squads in addition to Maryland and Navy.
Head Coach Matt Gittermann celebrates his tenth year at the helm by welcoming back a dozen letterwinners and four newcomers to the women's side.
Two-time America East All-Conference cross country performer Sophia Cologer graduated last spring, along with solid performers Chelsea Vane and Katelyn Callaghan. It will be difficult to replace that trio, but Coach Gittermann is confident that senior Olivia Richter can lead the squad on and off the courses.
"Olivia had a strong fall and has shown to have a desire to lead the squad," said Gittermann.
Richter placed sixth overall against a tough field at Navy in 2016 and crossed the tape in 20th position at the America East Championships.
Junior Kelsey Ponton appears primed to be a consistent scorer in her third season, while Coach Gittermann is also very high on sophomore Briana Roberts, who cracked the top five in three of six meets for the Retrievers during her first season.
The squad hopes to improve upon its fifth place finish in the America East Championships, which take place in Burlington, Vt. on Oct. 28.
"The women's team has a very good culture and if they continue on that path, they should be able to collectively achieve as a team at a higher level than their individual talents' suggest," said Gittermann.