FAIRFIELD - How do you replace three senior leaders that brought your squad to third place finishes in both the Class LL and State Open tournaments last fall?

You can’t.

Fairfield Warde head coach Tim Foster knows that. Last season, Foster relied on Alex Mocarski (12th place finish, State Open), James Maniscalco (13th place) and Danny Jagoe (28th place) to lead the Mustangs both as runners and leaders. Well, Foster still has a solid pack of runners heading into the fall campaign, he just needs them to stand up as leaders.

“This year, it’s all about having our runners step up,” Foster wrote in his prospectus to the Citizen. “We graduated a great group last year and now we have to rely on some really good runners to start racing as leaders.”

Those runners - senior A.J. Hutchens, a first team All-FCIAC selection, who finished 56th (17:18) at the State Open last fall, is back, along with another All-FCIAC first team pick, Noah Igram (124 th State Open, 18:14). Other returnees include, Dylan Pomer (119th State Open, 18:11), Jeremy Garskof, Ryan Muhlenberg, Greg Vogt and Peter Biegel.

“As long as we can state healthy and gain race experience,” Foster wrote. “We should be able to compete at a high level in both the conference and state meets.”

WARDE GIRLS

Unlike the Mustangs boys, the Mustangs girls’ squad relied on underclassmen to post a winning 8-7 regular season record and a ninth-place finish in the Class LL meet.

“The keys to success this season is continuing to develop our team to be more competitive,” head coach Tim Foster wrote in his prospectus to the Citizen. “We return our top five runners from the state meet last fall and have some new runners coming up.”

Last fall as sophomores, Abby Hart (21st Class LL, 20:59) and Emily Vogt (39th Class LL, 21:36) led the Mustangs. Both are back as juniors. In addition, senior-to-be Caroline Egervari (41st Class LL, 21:41), senior-to-be Dana Calamari (82nd Class LL, 23:17) and senior-to-be Tara McVeigh (88th Class LL, 23:23) return.

“As long as ournew runners reach their potential and the veteran runners better their times,” Foster wrote. “Our team will accomplish ever more this year.”

FAIRFIELD PREP

For the first time in four seasons, Drew Thompson will not be leading the Jesuit pack toward the finish line.

The defending State Open and Class LL champion has graduated, taking four years of championship caliber running with him, but Prep coach Bob Ford Jr., isn’t left without experience. In fact, he probably has one of the better up-and-coming runners in the region in sophomore Azaan Dawson, who placed 18th at the State Open last fall (16:40) as a freshman.

“Azaan was the best freshman at the State Open last season,” Ford wrote in his prospectus to the Citizen. “And he was an All-State selection.”

Last year, Prep placed fourth at the State Open and fifth in the Class LL meet. Looking to help the Jesuits equal those marks in 2018 will be senior Ed Tristine (75th State Open, 17:29) and Ian Cipollaro.

“Both will be strong runners for us,” Ford wrote.

Prep went 3-1 last fall in the SCC Quinnipiac Division, 9-1 in the regular season and finished seventh at the New England tournament.

“We are looking forward to being competitive once again in a strong SCC and Class LL field.” Ford wrote.

LUDLOWE BOYS/GIRLS

New coach Kelly Renna takes over for the departed Christina Caron and hopes to build more of the foundation that took the Falcons girls’ to a sixth place finish and the boys’ to a 15th place finish in the Class LL tournament last fall.

“We have a ton of great potential in this program, and from day one this season, we hit the ground running, so I’m really psyched to see us rise,” Renna wrote in her prospectus to the Citizen. “I think the keys to success are a hard work ethic and practice in strong mentality. In addition, I think the bond and camaraderie within the program is essential to success because in XC, everyone runner can make an impact.”

On the girls’ side, Maggie Leatherwood, Jamie Fortunato and Annalisa Skinner will be captains. Returnees include, Lauren O’Neil - who finished 31st in the Class LL meet in 21:20 -- Maddy Ruggiero (57th, Class LL, 21:46), Micaela Walsh, Julia Antonicelli and Sophie Lesko.

For the boys, Quinn Lareau, Josh Schaffer and Evan Gander will be captains and top returnees include,

Kedar Chavan, Ethan Lovallo, Griffin Boyle, Josh Schaffer, Quinn Lareau and Evan Gander.

“The boys and girls on this team are enthusiastic, hard-working, and eager to grow into stronger runners,” Renna wrote. “This season, I am working hard to bridge our cross country and track programs. We have a lot of strong three-season runners, and we are all looking forward to the gains of a full year of training together moving forward.

“Racing is a huge challenge and having team mates there to push you to be stronger when you are feeling weak is a huge gain. We’re all in it together.”

ND-FAIRFIELD

Last season, the Lancers boys’ team finished 25th in the Class SS tournament. The girls did not compete in the CIAC tournament.

Coach Ed Berberich is back for his 12 th season with the Lancers.

“We have a group that enjoy training together and hope that translates to racing fast,” Berberich wrote in his prospectus to the Citizen. “This season will be spent learning how to race our own races and not race against the competition. We are using the season to prepare for the Class meets.”

Patrick Milner and Cameron Connolly will be captains for the boys’ team and Valentina Londono will captain the girls’ squad.

Along with Milner, Sean Mitchell and Gabe DaSilva are back for the boys’ team and Michelle Jimenez and Madison Bartram are back for the girls’ team.