The Hope College women’s cross country team is off and running this season, despite graduating one of its best all-time runners.

The Flying Dutch are ranked 19th in the United States Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association preseason cross country poll for NCAA Division III and third in the Great Lakes Region.

Hope, coached by Mark Northuis, returns four of seven runners who scored at the national meet last season when the Flying Dutch finished 10th for their fifth top-five finish in Division III all-time.

Junior Avery Lowe of North Muskegon, Michigan (North Muskegon HS) is Hope’s highest-returning national finisher. She placed 137th as a sophomore.

Sophomore Kelly Peregrine of Traverse City, Michigan (Central) came in 149th at nationals to score as a freshman.

Senior Alissa Frazee of Watervliet, Michigan (Home School) and sophomore Emily Hamilton of Naperville, Illinois (Naperville North) took 166th and 201st, at nationals, respectively.

These four are among a veteran group of runners who will lead the Flying Dutch as they replace a senior class that included Erin Herrmann, who finished fourth at nationals to earn All-America honors. Later in the spring, Herrmann went on to become national champion in the outdoor track & field’s steeplechase.

“We started (preparations) last year when we meet with the team,” said Northuis, who’s in his 29th season. “We talked about the shoes that needed to be filled and what you can do in the offseason. In cross country, you have to do it in the offseason. We challenged them to come back in better shape, and they did.

“Erin was our third or fourth runner as a sophomore. She steps up and makes All-American her junior year. We said ‘Let’s try to make that leap.’”

Hope has a roster of 32 runners.

“It’s a mature team that will help the younger teammates come along,” Northuis said. “We’re very excited about a good group of freshmen. It should be a good year.”

Hope opens the 2017 season on Saturday, September 2 with the annual season-opening Bill Vanderbilt Invitational at Ridge Point Church. Calvin, Cornerstone, Davenport, Grace Bible and Muskegon Community College will be in the field.