The Yale cross country team is off to the races this Friday as both the men’s and women’s teams kick off their seasons with their annual meet against Harvard and Princeton.

With the meet serving as a chance to evaluate this season’s competition, both teams are looking for promising finishes in Boston. With this in mind, the runners view the race primarily as stepping-stone on the way to more important events this fall.

“The HYP meet is particularly exciting both because it gives us the opportunity to prove our mettle against our oldest rivals and because it is the only time in the fall when all healthy Yale runners will be on the line at the same time, running and supporting each other in the same race,” Emily Barnes ’17 said. “Of course we plan to make a strong showing this upcoming weekend against our rivals but I wouldn’t say we are placing undue emphasis on any overly specific goals this early in the season.”

The men’s team is captained by Kevin Dooney ’16, who placed 34th in the NCAA National Championships in the 10k race last November. In addition to Dooney, the team will also retain the rest of its top four runners and sport a squad of 19 total returners, giving them a sturdy foundation heading into this season.

At last season’s HYP meet, the team was edged out by nationally ranked Princeton by a single point. According to Dooney, it is time for the Bulldogs to take the top spot. With an impressive roster, including James Randon ’17 and Cameron Stanish ’18 — who both finished within the top seven overall last year — Dooney thinks the Elis are nearly ready for race day.

“We’re in a good position to race,” Dooney said. “Most of our top runners did not graduate [and] we have some freshmen who should be able to step up. [This meet is] definitely a nice test to see where we’re at, but we’ve got bigger things down the road.”

Led by captain Shannon McDonnell ’16, who is coming off of a successful track season, the women’s team is also looking to draw on a core of experienced runners. A trio from the class of 2018 — Sami Glass, Dana Klein and Kelli Reagan — all finished in the team’s top seven in the HYP meet last season, and Glass finished sixth overall among all runners. McDonnell, Emily Waligurski ’17 and Emily Stark ’16 also finished in the top seven last year.

According to Glass, one positive change this year is the likely mobility amongst the top seven runners from race to race. There should be substantial competition for these positions, especially because several injured players who were sidelined for last season are now fully recovered and a set of eight talented freshmen have joined the roster.

“As a team, we’re really striving to prove that this program is deep and strong,” Glass said. “It’s still new and developing, [but] now it’s maturing. As a program we want to prove that we can score and be a big player and rank even higher among other Ivy league cross country teams … More so than anything we want to win, go out there, beat Harvard and Princeton.”

In preparation for the season, the team has been working closely with new coaches George Evans and Matt McMasters on drills and conditioning programs designed for distance runners. McMasters joined the program this summer while Evans joined the program at the beginning of the last academic year.

Although HYP is an exciting start to the season for the Bulldogs, the runners know that their performances at the meet are only a potential indicator of what is to come and that the most important part of racing is timing their peak for the end of the season.

“At this point in the season the emphasis is on getting stronger and building up a base that can sustain us all for a long season to come,” Barnes said. “We are also focusing on building groups that can push and support each other both in training and during races.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams will travel to New York next week to race in the Iona Meet of Champions.