Jonathan Cohen/Binghamton University Junior Vasili Papastrat will look to build on a strong 2010 season when cross country begins on Sept. 9.

With nine total incoming freshmen, the Binghamton University men’s and women’s cross country teams are preparing for the season with plenty of new faces.

After a runner-up finish in the America East last season, the men’s team is ready to recapture the conference title it won in 2009, but with six freshman and only five upperclassmen, the pursuit will be a challenge.

“On the men’s side, this is going to be a really young team for us,” head coach Annette Acuff said. “I think we’re really going to be focusing a lot on helping these younger guys develop and help the team dynamics for the future of the program. We do have some guys coming back, and we’re looking forward to seeing what those guys can do.”

For the Bearcats, returning junior Vasili Papastrat will be counted on to anchor the team. In 2010, the then-sophomore finished 19th overall at the America East Championships and placed a team-best and program-best eighth overall at the University at Albany Invitational.

“Vasili Papastrat had one of the most consistent seasons last year, and we’re really looking forward to seeing him step up,” Acuff said. “We’ll have some challenges, but this is one of the most talented teams we’ve ever had.”

The 12th-year head coach is confident in her men’s squad despite an influx of incoming freshmen and is confident that their high school accomplishments will be reflected this season.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the freshmen that we have and what they were able to do at the high school level and who they are as people,” she said. “We were really excited about how well we felt like they would fit in with the rest of our team. [A huge part of our success] has been our team chemistry and how well our guys have been able to work together.”

On the women’s side, the Bearcats will see the return of juniors Rachel Miura and Lindsay Raulli. After placing 27th overall at the America East Championships and finishing 13th out of 177 runners at the Albany Invitational, Raulli was named the squad’s 2010 MVP. Miura finished right behind her in 28th.

“Those two have been training really well this summer, and I know they’re really excited about what their potential is for this year and also for the team,” Acuff said. “I think the girls are probably the most motivated that I’ve seen them since they’ve come in. They’ve had a chance to be with the program and develop over the past couple of years.”

As the only senior on either side, Ashley Horton will look to finish her collegiate career on a high note. As a junior, she posted fifth at the season-opening dual meet against Siena College and finished 37th overall at the season-ending Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships.

“We’re really excited Ashley decided to come back and stay with us another year,” Acuff said. “She’s had a great summer and she’s been feeling really good, so I hope that we can help her finish on a great note and help her to improve a lot upon what she’s been able to do so far over the last few years she’s been here.”

With three incoming freshmen, Binghamton will also rely on sophomore Caitlin Jelinek and transfer Megan Jacoby, a junior who joins the Bearcats from the University of Connecticut.

“Both of those girls will contribute a lot, they both have a lot of talent and potential,” Acuff said. “Caitlin’s been with us for a year, and Megan is transferring from UConn, but she has a lot of experience competing at UConn and in the Big East, certainly a competitive conference. We just have to keep both of them healthy along with the rest of the team and I think we can do really well.”

The teams will open the 2011 season on Sept. 9 at Cornell University for the Cornell Tri-Meet with Army.