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Granite Staters Lauren Dean and Jeffrey Allen will be among the UNH Wildcats racing in the America East Cross Country Championships on Friday in Durham.

DURHAM — The first America East championship trophies of the 2021-22 season will be awarded Friday at Wildcat Stadium.

The league’s cross country championships on Friday return to the University of New Hampshire for the first time in nearly a decade, featuring men’s and women’s courses that will finish on the track in front of Wildcat Stadium.

Both courses — the 5K for women and 8K for men — start in the lower field behind the stadium and offer various vantage points for spectators along the way. The women’s race begins at noon and the men’s at 1 p.m.

“It’s always exciting to go to the America East Championships and even more exciting to have it at our school,” said Robert Hoppler, who is in his first year as director of the UNH track & field and cross country program.

Hoppler, longtime head of the women’s side of the program, took over as director this summer when Jim Boulanger retired after running the show for the past four decades.

Wildcat Stadium opened in 2016 and UNH last played host to the America East cross country championships in 2012. UNH hosted in 2004 as well.

Each of the last two times the championships were held in Durham, a Wildcat runner took home an individual championship.

Keeley McGuire won the women’s title in 2012 to help UNH to a runner-up finish to Stony Brook, a result that spurred the Wildcats on to an impressive run. They won five league championships, and six in a span of seven years, starting in 2013.

Tony Truax won the individual championship in 2004, also helping UNH to a runner-up finish.

UMass Lowell comes in as defending champion and the team to beat on both the men’s and women’s side.

The River Hawks won the women’s and men’s titles in 2020, championships that were actually held in March of this year after being delayed by COVID-19.

Both individual champions from March — Emily Mackay of Binghamton and Kyle Cloutier of UMass Lowell will be looking to defend their titles as well.

Seniors Lauren Dean of Gilmanton Iron Works and Nicole Yeomans, both of whom have grabbed All-Conference cross country honors in past years, are among UNH’s veteran leaders.

Dean finished ninth and Yeomans 13th when the Wildcats won their most recent title — and league-leading seventh overall — in 2019. Dean was eighth and Yeomans 19th to help UNH to a third-place finish in the championships last spring.

Sisters Annemarie Martell and Elizabeth Martell have also been All-Conference. Annemarie was 11th and Elizabeth 13th in the 2020 championships. Annemarie was running for Vermont at the time and is now a UNH grad student and Elizabeth is a sophomore.

UNH’s top finishers so far this season have been a pair of freshmen from opposite coasts: Addison Cox out of Northwood and Coe-Brown Academy and Jill Walker from Simi Valley High School in California.

Both come from running families. Cox’s father, Tim, is one of the coaches in Coe-Brown’s vaunted running program and Walker’s mother, Abi, coached her at Simi Valley.

“Addison has a deep understanding of the sport and a love for the sport,” Hoppler said. “Jill has done a great job adjusting from Southern California to New Hampshire. California athletics is deep and competitive and she knows what it’s like to run against tough competition. You can see she brought that into this season and it’s been exciting to watch.”

Aidan O’Hern, a junior out of Concord, has been the leader for the UNH men this fall.

“Aidan’s been running great,” Hoppler said. “He’s improved a lot and is having an excellent season.”

O’Hern was named America East Performer of the Week for the first time this week for his third-place result at the Central Connecticut State University mini-meet.

“It’s a work in progress on the men’s side, but we’re excited about doing the work,” Hoppler said. “We certainly feel we’re significantly better than we were at the beginning of the season and the guys have done a nice job of training and coming together.”

Aidan Shea, a freshman from Amherst, Mass., who transferred to UNH from a school in Scotland, and sophomore Jeffrey Allen of Litchfield and Campbell High who started at UMass Lowell and then took a year off before transferring to Durham, have been nice additions.

Junior William Curran is also back with the program after a year off. Brayden Kearns is a freshman from Concord who has been contributing.

UMass Lowell won for first time on women’s side in March and returns several runners including Kaley Richards, Emily Sessa and Jenna Solimine to give it another go.

Jane Leighton of Amherst, who ran for Souhegan, races for Vermont and should compete for the individual title.

UMass Lowell and Stony Brook have battled at the top of the men’s side for the last half a dozen years, each winning three championships.

The Wildcats, Binghamton and Maine will look to push Stony Brook and UMass Lowell.