Photo Provided Sophomore Allison Davis placed 32nd at last season’s AE Cross Country Championships.

Last year, the Binghamton women’s cross country team had no returning seniors. In 2013, there was just one. This inexperience, combined with a number of ill-timed injuries, led to poor results in an already tough America East conference. In a field of nine America East teams, the Bearcats finished ninth and eighth, respectively, at the 2013 and 2014 AE Championships. In 2015, however, the team will open its campaign this Saturday with five returning seniors.

If they stay healthy, these five runners – Anna Corrigan, Kailey Dwyer, Lizzie Greiner, Alexis Hatcher and Shannon O’Hara – will look to carry the team.

“We have a lot of seniors,” BU head coach Annette Acuff said. “They’ve certainly got a lot of experience and they’re looking forward to doing well this year. I think there’s a lot of maturity; that will help us out quite a bit.”

Along with the strong veteran presence, there are five freshmen striving to make their mark and, for the first time in over two years, a large senior class will be there to help support their development. Of the newcomers, Jessica Thatcher, an Elmira native, stands out to coach Acuff.

“Jessica Thatcher is definitely our top freshman,” Acuff said. “She was third in our time trials, so I think she should be a significant contributor this year.”

The team’s leader is senior Alexis Hatcher, who paced the team in five of six meets last season and was named to the AE All-Academic team. Hatcher placed 25th in last year’s AE Cross Country Championship, running the course in 18:52.41, the team’s best. Despite struggling with injuries in past seasons, she returns this year in top form.

“I think [Hatcher]’s certainly got a lot of potential to do very well in our conference,” Acuff said. “She’s been pretty healthy coming off the summer, so we’re definitely looking forward to being able to help her out and help her finish on a good note.”

Another key returner for the Bearcats is sophomore Allison Davis. Davis was the team’s second place finisher in three meets last season, including the AE Championships, where she finished in 32nd place. BU’s returning runners will be an asset this season, but exactly how much of an overall team improvement it will allow for remains to be seen.

“Our goals are just to really improve upon our times from last year and hopefully be much more competitive in the conference … It’s one of the most competitive conferences in the Northeast,” Acuff said.

The Bearcats are set to open their season Saturday at the Harry Lang Invitational hosted by Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. The meet is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.

Disclaimer: Alexis Hatcher is a writer for Pipe Dream, but had nothing to do with the writing of this story.