ATLANTA — Highlighting the 2011 Georgia State cross country season are two home meets: the Georgia State Invitational on Sept. 17 and the Colonial Athletic Association Championship on Oct. 29.

“Having home meets are important because it gives our student-athletes a chance to compete in front of their friends, their classmates and their families on their home venue,” said head coach Chris England.

Since 1973, the GSU Invitational had run annually in Panthersville, but had gone dormant in 2008 and 2009. When England arrived in 2010, he was instrumental in restarting the event and relocating it to its new home on Nash Farm Battlefield near Hampton, Ga.

The return of the meet last season was a success as the Panthers notched team victories by both the men and women. Freshman Anna Sinclair also won the individual title for the women.

“The GSU Invitational will be a good preview for the conference championship,” said England. “It won’t be an easy victory for the Georgia State team, but it will be a good bench mark as we head towards the conference championship meet.”

In addition to the Invitational, the Panthers will play host to their first conference cross country meet in a decade and for the first time since joining the CAA in 2005.

In 2001, the men’s team won the Atlantic Sun in Panthersville and the women’s team finished second. That year marked the both last time that GSU hosted a conference meet and the last time that either team won a conference crown.

Both the men and women’s teams finished in eighth place at last year’s CAA championship — an indication of the program’s youth and rebuilding under a new coach.

“Last year, the team went through a transition,” said England. “They did everything I asked of them and more. This year will be about execution as we hope to build last year’s strong foundation.”

The storyline for the men’s team in 2010 was that of youth and inexperience — of nine runners, seven were freshman and only one, Chris Harper, was an upperclassman.

Now a senior, Harper remains the only upperclassmen, but is no longer the only veteran.

Twins Brandon and Julian Black, Shyam Kapadia, Chris Manning and Tyler Tomy return as experienced sophomores looking to improve on the foundations set in 2010.

Tomy was the team’s top finisher in five meets last season, including the CAA Championship and the NCAA Regional. He and Harper will serve as co-captains for the team in 2011.

They are joined by a trio of newcomers in 2011: Mill Creek High School standout Austin Boetje and Belgian athletes Pierre Brogniet and Valentin Poncelet.

Poncelet comes to GSU after one year at American International University in Easton, Mass., where he was named the Northeast-10 Conference Rookie of the Year.

For the women, ten returning runners balance eight newcomers and provide the Panthers both experience and unprecedented depth.

“At the head of the pack is a strong duo,” said England. “Katharine Showalter and Anna Sinclair battled it out for the top spot last year and traded places practically every week. It was a nice intra-squad rivalry and I hope to see that continue.”

Showalter will pace fellow juniors Alison Bishop and Kelsey Spinks. Showalter took the individual title in last year’s Struts JSU Opener and finished second at the GSU Invite.

As a freshman, Sinclair was GSU’s top female finisher in the CAA Championship and NCAA Regional. She leads a sophomore class that also includes Katie Papesh and Jennifer Rubel.

Seniors Zanny Anderson, Kacee Houle and Andrea Rodriguez will provide stability and guidance to an impressive pack of newcomers. Anderson and Houle will be co-captains on the women’s side.

Joining the women’s squad in 2011 are Betty Chow, Zoila Escorza, Irish-native Niamh Kearney, Ansley Lawson, Sarah McCarthy, senior track athlete Danyel Mitchell, Hannah Stefanoff and Lauren Taronji.

“Our women’s team was already deep: now we’re just padding that,” said England. “These freshmen come from very successful high school back grounds so they are already used to the pressure to perform. We expect them to give an immediate contribution.”

The season kicks off on Sept. 3 when the Panthers visit Bishop, Ga., for the UGA Invitational. Their schedule includes other trips around the southeast to Evans, Ga., and Auburn, Troy and Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Their lone trip north will take the team to Bethlehem, Pa., on the campus of Lehigh University to compete in the Paul Short Run on Sept. 30.