The Bucs cross country team opens the season Aug. 31 at the Covered Bridge Open in Boone, North Carolina. There will be a two-week break between each meet as the Bucs would have a chance to compete against teams they have in the past.

Last season the men had a lot of success finishing top four in six of their meets. The women finished top three in six of their meets last season. Most importantly, both finished top three in the Southern Conference championship.

This season Bucs head coach George Watts has brought in four freshmen for the men’s team who are very young, considering the majority of the team is redshirt sophomores.

Most of the men’s team will be making debuts this season with the goal of repeating the success from a season ago or ultimately placing better in the NCAA tournament. The men’s team will return one senior.

On the women’s side, they are also fairly young with the majority of the team being sophomores. Also like the men’s team, the women’s team will return one senior. Watts has brought in two freshmen on the women’s roster for this upcoming season.

Key runners returning to the Bucs are sophomore Ben Varghese (Kingsport, Tennessee), redshirt Noah Charles (Johnson City, Tennessee) and senior James Garst (Jonesborough, Tennessee) who all earned second-team All-SoCon.

A key runner returning to the Bucs will be Lindsey Stallworth (Knoxville, Tennessee) who earned second-team All-SoCon and earned a spot on the All-Freshman team.

With so much youth, Watts will look to develop both his teams throughout the season with the ultimate goal to stay healthy and place well in the SoCon championship.

As of Aug. 28, both men’s and women’s teams were predicted to finished second in the conference by the SoCon media. The men received 73 points in the standings — only eight behind the predicted winner and reigning conference champion, Furman University. One of the nine first-place votes went to both the men and women, trailing only Furman.