Central Wyoming College is preparing for its fourth season on the trails featuring a new freshman recruiting class.
Central Wyoming College's cross country squad is preparing to begin its fourth season of competition. In anticipation of the new campaign, Rustlers head coach Al Lara has loaded up on fresh talent for his team.
The likely top gun of the new group is Dominic Twomey of Rocky Mountain High School in Cowley, who finished fifth at the Class 2-A state meet his senior season, crossing the finish line at the race in Sheridan in a time of 18:30.23.
For Lara, Twomey's strongest attribute might be his willingness to buy into what his new coach is selling.
"Dominic definitely believes in my philosophy," said Lara. "We're on the same page and he works very hard to get better."
In fact, Twomey pledged a goal to Lara upon his signing with Central.
"He told me he wants to be an all-American," said Lara.
That requires a top-40 finish at the national championships.
"When someone says that, it means a lot."
Joining forces from the Class 2-A ranks is local product Natuin Trosper of Wyoming Indian High School in Ethete, who finished eighth in the same race at state last season.
Despite Trosper's bulk, don't let that fool you as far as the former Chiefs runner is concerned, said Lara.
"For Natuin, it's all upper-body strength," he said. "But, he's not a football player, he's a runner. I think he has a lot of untapped potential."
Mountain View's Lukas Mathew finished 12th in the Class 3-A state title race in 17:42.30 and also will be donning the orange and black this fall.
"Lukas was one of the most consistent runners in the state his senior year," said Lara. "He has the work ethic required, and he's willing to do everything I ask of him as a coach."
Mathew was set to compete in a rugged Spartan race, in which participants must navigate all variety of obstacles on their way to the finish line, but Lara put the brakes on that plan.
"Lukas told me he was going to do that, and I said he couldn't because he might get injured," said Lara. "Well, he didn't do it, which is refreshing because most kids do what they want these days."
Other additions include Zach Relf of Campbell County High School, Brayden Wirick of Rock Springs and Eric Nkunzimana of West High School in Salt Lake City.
Nkunzimana is an especially interesting prospect, as his primary athletic endeavors previously involved pounding opponents into submission inside the squared circle of the boxing ring.
"When you're dealing with a boxer, you know the guys's going to be tough," said Lara. "I really think I'm going to be able to get the best out of him."
Duncan Makin is the lone returner on the men's side, and the former Riverton Wolverine will be looking to build on a strong freshman season.
Speaking of former Big Red runners, on the women's side, Jessica Stewart is back for her sophomore campaign and according to Lara, is primed to have a breakout season.
"Jessica told me this will probably be her last year of competition, so she really wants to go out on a high note," said Lara. "Whenever I go out, I see her running somewhere. She definitely wants to get better."
Another returner is Rebekah Hutchison, who rounds out the former Riverton contingent. She had never competed in cross country before her freshman season last year.
"I really think Rebekah can get under 20 minutes this season," said Lara, "as long as she keeps improving."
Chelsea Bad Hawk was forced to sit out her freshman season last year due to injury, but the former Lander Valley runner is back this fall, looking to make an impression.
Other rookie runners on the women's side include Jessilyn Monahan of Cheyenne Central, Sienna Schuler of Sundance and Breanna Beaslin of Evanston.
Lara is high on all his fresh female faces, he said.
"Jessilyn is out top recruit, but I'm looking for good things from all our new girls," said Lara. "I'm confident in their abilities."
Overall, the Central boss is bullish on his squad's chances this season, he said.
"I really think this is going to be our year," said Lara. "Everyone wants to be here and is ready to work hard. When you get to college, it's much tougher than high school, but I feel if you come to me, I'm going to push you harder than you've even been pushed before."
Central begins practice Aug. 7, with the opening meet of the season at Gillette College on Aug. 26.