August 31, 2019
By UAFS SPORTS INFORMATION
FORT SMITH – Mason Rhodes, the head coach of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith men’s and women’s cross country teams, has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the 2019 season; 14 of them to be exact.
“We’ve added 11 freshmen and three transfers to our squads,” said Rhodes. “We wanted to grow both the size and scope of talent on our teams, which is exactly what we’ve done. I’m excited about this year’s recruiting class.”
Now in his second year of leading the Lion’s programs, Rhodes said he was looking for a particular quality in this year’s class of recruits.
“I wanted kids who aren’t afraid to challenge themselves in the classroom and on the course,” said Rhodes. “Our student-athletes are fierce competitors, but they’re also focused on earning a degree. What they learn in this program and at this university will allow them to be successful in the professional world.”
This new class of recruits joins a talented group of returners on both squads.
“On the women’s side, we’re looking for big things from senior Kandace Young,” said Rhodes. “She broke our school record last year by running an 18:36 at the 5k distance. Her goal this year is to drop that even lower. We only have three returners on our men’s side: Will Phillips, Oliver Perez and James Glidewell. All three are coming off a very strong showing in the spring and are focused on ending their running careers on a high note.”
The experience of the returning Lions will be especially important with the university’s switch to the Lone Star Conference.
“The Lone Star is very similar to the Heartland Conference in regards to cross country,” said Rhodes. “Although we didn’t show as well as we wanted in 2018, I think we’ll be competitive this year. We have a strong core of returners. With the addition of our new talent, we may surprise some people as to how good we can be.”
The UAFS Lions will start the season by hosting the UAFS Invitational Sept. 7 at the site of the former First Tee of Fort Smith, 6100 Golf Course Loop. This will be only the second time UAFS has hosted a cross country meet.
“We’re partnering with the Fort Smith School District to build a running course at that site,” said Rhodes. “It will serve both the university and school districts. The UAFS meets will begin that morning with the women’s competition at 8 a.m. Our men will compete immediately afterwards and be followed by both high school and junior high races. If you love cross country, this is the meet for you.”
A complete UAFS cross country schedule and roster is available at uafslions.com.