The UAFS men’s and women's cross country teams will make their fall debut on Saturday when the Lions compete in the Missouri Southern State Southern Stampede 8k at the Tom Rutledge Cross Country Course in Joplin, Mo.

The UAFS men's team will run in the University Open Men’s Division, which begins at 9:45 a.m.

“We picked up a few new guys late, so we spent the extra time getting everyone in shape,” first-year UAFS coach Mason Rhodes said. “For our returning guys, we used the extra time to do extra speed work and get good miles in.”

Only three runners return from last season’s team, including junior Will Phillips from Mount Pleasant, Texas; junior Oliver Perez from Berryville; and senior Brooks Hedstrom from Bentonville.

They are joined by sophomore Christian Green from Lavaca; freshman Cameron Rush from Van Buren; and freshman Andrew Smith from Fort Smith.

“Our men are not very deep this year, and we have many new faces,” Rhodes said. “Everyone is eager to get on the course and see how we can run, especially our three returners who feel they have something to prove based off of last year.”

The women's team will compete in the University Open 5k which begins at 8:30 a.m.

“The women are hungry for competition,” first-year UAFS coach Mason Rhodes said. “They are going to be a force to be reckoned with this season. We have eight girls who are all ready to run faster than ever.”

Seven runners return from last season’s team including senior Claire Burnsed from Sallisaw; sophomore Morgan Fagan from Acorn; junior Carmen Hedstrom from Bentonville; senior Savanna Herbert from Rogers; redshirt sophomore Kaylie McVoy from Sugarland, Texas; senior Madison Trees from Houston; and redshirt sophomore Kandace Young from Poteau.

They are joined by junior Cami Hedstrom from Bentonville; who transferred from Arkansas Tech.

Rhodes said preseason practice has gone well.

“Everyone is in great shape, and we are starting to sharpen the blade with faster speed work and longer runs,” Rhodes said.