For most sports teams, a new season means scrambling to try and fill the holes that the previous year’s seniors have left behind. But this year is different for the men’s and women’s cross country teams — most of the team’s key athletes have returned this season, and their experience will be much needed for the two teams who finished in seventh and eighth respectively in the Ivy League Championships.

Six Eli men competed in Yale’s ninth-place finish out of 36 teams at the NCAA Northeast Regionals last season, and all six are returning. Among the six is team standout Jeff Perrella ’11, who clocked in at 32:08 for a 28th place finish out of 244 runners. In fact, the Bulldogs’ top seven runners from last season are returning, according to Matt Bogdan ’11.

However, Bogdan noted that the men still needed to improve their performance in the off-season in order to improve on a disappointing finish in the Ivy championships last season. The Bulldogs’ seventh-place finish in the meet was partly due to some members of the team falling ill, but Bogdan acknowledged that they “just didn’t get it done” at the meet. In response, some members of the team have been topping one hundred miles a week during summer training, Bogdan added.

“In a sport in which you do a lot of running, how much running you do over the summer has a direct correlation with how you do in the season,” Bogdan said, adding that he has higher hopes for this year’s squad. “I think for a lot of us, especially in the senior class, a podium finish would be fanstastic. But I think anything less than the top-half would be disappointing. You don’t run as many miles as we do hoping for less than that.”

Alexandra Cadicamo ’10, Stephanie Pearl ’10 and Stephany Reaves ’10 are no longer with the Bulldog women, but the team returns the majority of its best runners, including Anne Lovelace ’12, who finished first for the Bulldogs in both the Heptagonals and the NCAA Regionals. Captain Liya Assefa ’11, who finished close behind Lovelace in the NCAA Regional meet, also returns this year.

“I think we’re looking really good, and we have a lot of returning runners who have been practicing pretty strong,” Assefa said. “We graduated a few solid seniors but we have a really good freshman class, and our sophomore and junior classes are pretty strong, so I think we’ll definitely be able to do better than in the past.”

The Elis will also look for strong performances from Elizabeth Marvin ’13, who was the top Yale finisher at the Iona Meet of Champions, and Nihal Kayali ’13, who took the top Yale spot at the Penn State Lock Haven meet.

“Everyone’s looking really healthy and I think we have more depth than last year,” Lovelace said. “I think we’re looking to do better than we have in the past two years. We have a strong freshman class and a lot of upperclassmen returning from injuries and everyone’s been working out pretty strong.”

Both teams compete against Dartmouth this Saturday at the Dartmouth Invitational.