First-year UAFS men’s cross country coach Mason Rhodes is eager to get preseason practice under and is excited about the upcoming season for the Lions, who begin their 10th season of competition.

The Lions will report to campus this weekend with preseason practice beginning next week. UAFS will begin the season on Saturday, Sept. 15, when it competes in the Missouri Southern State Southern Stampede in Joplin, Mo.

“We have a few returners coming into this season in great shape,” Rhodes said. “Everyone is healthy, and we have a few new faces joining the team this year. We have a few guys eyeing an opportunity to qualify to run at the regional cross country meet.”

UAFS was picked to finish eighth in the recently-released Heartland Conference Preseason Coaches/SIDs Poll. The Lions finished eighth in last year’s conference championship meet.

Dallas Baptist was picked to reclaim the conference championship. The Patriots picked up 12 of 16 first-place votes and 124 points overall. Rogers State was picked to finish just behind the Patriots after edging out Dallas Baptist at last year’s conference meet. The Hillcats received four first-place votes and 113 total points in the poll.

Oklahoma Christian earned the third spot in the preseason poll with 92 total points. OC finished third at last year’s conference meet. Lubbock Christian was picked fourth in the conference with 72 points in the poll, followed by Newman (60 points), St. Edward’s (50 points), Texas A&M International (41 points) and UAFS (24 points).

The Heartland Conference will crown its champion at the 2018 Heartland Cross Country Championships in Laredo, Texas, on Nov. 3.