The Fairfield Warde cross country teams have built a tradition of excellence.

Both the boys and girls return six of their seven starters from teams that each finished in the top-10 at Class Ls a year ago.

"We have more depth than we had at this time in past years," Warde coach Tim Foster said.

The boys program continues to improve. Warde qualified as a team for the Class L meet in its first season as an L member. The Mustangs competed-- and finished in the top-10 each year-- in Class MM every year between 2006 and 2009.

Returning for the Mustangs' boys team is the dominant Harry Warnick. He finished third at the Class L meet a year ago, was first team All-FCIAC and finished 12th at the State Open.

Second-team All-FCIAC sophomore Nick Gans returns, as does Warnick's brother Sam with seniors Tong Liu and Kevin Gartland in the mix, as is junior Chris Bencivengo. All but Liu and Gartland placed for the Mustangs at Class Ls a year ago.

Foster hopes the boys squad continues to improve. The Mustangs were fifth in 2009, and fourth in 2010.

"We've seen them improve every year," Foster said. "I guess this is a peak year with mostly senior guys."

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After winning the FCIAC in 2009, the Mustangs will have to rebound from an eighth place finish in the leagu meet. Senior Lexi Hoadley spearheads a group that will have to replace No. 1 runner Caroline Edison, who finished first at Class Ls a year ago.

"Last year was that rebuilding year," Foster said. "We got cleaned out after 2009."

Seniors Kerry Underhill and Jackie Wall each ran in the state meet in 2010 as did sophomores Sophie Flay and Leah Epstein. Caroline Keough is also back.

"So many girls are coming back," he said. "It takes about a year to experience the sport and learn the sport."

Foster is hopeful that senior Jillian Tallent-- who was a field hockey player in 2010-- also contributes for Warde this year.

Warde's numbers makes it one of the most dangerous teams in the FCIAC and Class L..

"It looks like we have a fairly solid three or four on the girls side and the boys are built similarly," Foster said. "We'll see how it plays out."