Nine months after winning its first-ever national title, the No. 3 women’s cross country team returns to action this weekend in the Dartmouth Invitational.

Trailing only Oregon and Washington in the national polls, the team’s title defense did take a hit last month when Head Coach Chris Miltenberg left to take the top track and field job at Stanford. Before he left, though, Miltenberg expressed optimism about the Hoyas’ ability to adjust to the departure of All-American Emily Infeld.

The Blue and Gray are optimistic that they will be able to fill Infeld’s enormous shoes and are counting on a number of younger runners, including top recruits Haley Pierce and Samantha Nadel. If the underclassmen step up, Georgetown might find another national title — and perhaps the Big East crown they missed out on last year — within reach.

Among Georgetown’s toughest competition this weekend is its host, Dartmouth, which is ranked seventh in the preseason poll.

While the women head north to New Hampshire, the No. 14 men’s team is bound for Happy Valley, where it will compete in the Penn State Invitational. Last season, the men’s squad finished second in the Big East, a result the Hoyas believe they can build on.

“I think [winning the Big East] is pretty much an annual goal for us. The Big East is one of the best conferences in the country, so it’s going to be tough to win it, [but] I think we should be in contention this year,” Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Patrick Henner said last month.

Henner is counting on the dynamic duo of graduate student Mark Dennin and senior Andrew Springer to play a major role this season.

“Mark Dennin and Andrew Springer [form] as good a one-two punch as anybody in the country,” Henner said. “We have a lot of young guys that have trained really well over the last year, so I think we can step up and be a much better team than we were last year.”

With so many new faces debuting in Hanover and Happy Valley, tomorrow’s meets will begin to answer the question of whether Georgetown will be able to replicate last year’s success.

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