Both the UAFS men’s and women’s cross country teams began preseason practice on Friday morning, and first-year head coaches Justin Bailey and Lauren Unger couldn’t have been much happier with the effort and intensity from their teams.

The Lions will have a roster that’s 10-runners deep and boast seven returning runners, including senior twin brothers TaBaris and TaTaris Earnest from Conway, Ark. The brothers each earned First Team All-Conference honors last season, helping lead the Lions to a third-place finish in the conference meet.

"First day of practice went very well. Everyone came back in decent shape and was excited to be back," Bailey said. "We are a family, but there will be some competition battles out there, which will be great for our younger guys and our team as a whole. We have a long way to go, but with the leadership of our upperclassmen, we should be fine down the road."

The Lady Lions will have a roster that’s nine-runners deep and feature two returning All-Conference performers in sophomores Katy Carter and Carlee Rodriguez. Carter, who is from Magazine, Ark., was named First Team All-Conference last season, while Rodriguez, who is from Rogers, Ark., was named Honorable Mention All-Conference.

Carter and Rodriguez are two of five returning players from last season’s team that finished a program-best fourth in the conference meet.

"It was very evident by the way they practiced that my runners had put in hard work over the summer," Unger said. "I was very pleased with how our first practice went. I have a great group of hard-working women, and if they continue to work as they did today, we will undoubtedly have an outstanding season."

UAFS will open the season on Sept. 7 when it competes in the University of Central Oklahoma Land Run in Edmond. It will be the first of seven meets, including the conference meet.