Franz Lino/Photo Editor The men’s and women’s cross country teams will be hosting Albany in a dual meet beginning at 6 p.m. tonight.

The Binghamton men’s and women’s cross country teams will open their season at home this year, hosting Albany at 6 p.m. today. The women’s team will run a 5K at 6 p.m., followed by the men’s team’s 8K directly after. Both races will start and finish behind the East Gym.

Though the women’s team was hampered by injury last season, leading to a ninth place finish in the America East meet, this year, head coach Annette Acuff believes things are looking better. The athletes are healthier, and beginning the season with a meet at home is a hefty advantage for the team looking to bounce back.

“It’s great to start off the season at home,” Acuff wrote in an email. “We know our course better than anyone so it’s obviously an advantage. We’ll also have a lot of support out on the course so it’s a great feeling to start off competing with.”

Junior Alexis Hatcher, the women’s team’s leader in four meets last year, has returned in top shape this season and looks forward to leading her team again. Hatcher broke two school records last year in the 1,000-meter and 3,000-meter steeplechases and she placed 22nd at last year’s AE cross country meet, a team best.

Hatcher said she feels pressure to perform at the high level expected of her and to continue to improve, but, of course, she isn’t alone.

“Almost every single one of our girls improved, one of them by a full minute from last year’s time trial,” Hatcher wrote in an email. “We finally have everyone almost completely healthy, and if we can stay healthy I think we’ll surprise some people.”

With just nine athletes on the roster, compared to 24 on the men’s side, the women’s team is small. But size doesn’t matter — or if it does, smaller might be better.

“We’ve become such a tight knit group during road runs and workouts, I think it’s going to help to keep the gap close during races,” Hatcher wrote.

Additional top returners include junior Lizzie Greiner and sophomores Alana MacDonald and Eileen O’Hara.

For its part, the men’s team returns six of last year’s top-10 finishers at the AE meet, at which the team placed second. The squad continued on to the NCAA East Region Meet and finished 10th. Highlighting the team are seniors Jesse Garn and Ben Snodgrass as well as junior Ethan Hausamann.

Snodgrass won the AE indoor track title in the 5,000 category, while Hausamann took a team-best 17th at the conference meet. Garn, perhaps known best on campus for breaking the four-minute mile mark last March, was also the Men’s Most Outstanding Performer at the conference’s indoor meet.

Overall, the teams are excited to begin the season and start competing again.

“The meet at home with Albany is pretty low key and just to get the rust out from not racing in a while,” Acuff wrote. “If we can keep everyone healthy this year we could do very well. We’re mainly focused right now on taking things one day at a time.”