Apr 9, 2014 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorAl Lara is the inaugural men's and women's cross country coach for the Central Wyoming College Rustlers.
Lara is employed at the CWC campus. He works at the physical plant with vehicles and in the grounds department.
The CWC Board of Trustees has preliminarily endorsed the sports expansion to include men's and women's cross country and men's and women's golf.
Final approval for the teams will be considered by the board of trustees through the budget process.
"Running is a passion of mine," Lara said. "It's something that I wanted to do for a long time. I coached at a junior high level and high school level."
Lara was a coach in Fresno, Calif.
"I have coached individual runners on a national class," Lara said.
Lara and new golf coach Pat Rafferty will now begin to fill out their rosters.
"I'm very excited that they are on board with us," CWC assistant dean for student services/athletic director Steve Barlow said. "They are both high-energy individuals who love their sports. We are ready to get going."
Reaction has been a positive one for CWC on the new sports.
"There are some kids that are already starting to contact us," Barlow said. "There have been coaches around the state that have been contacting us. We are behind a little bit because signing day has already past in both sports. We will be fine."
The school had planned to hire head coaches and assistant coaches from the community or college staff using stipends rather than creating new, full-time, benefitted positions.
"It worked out well for all of us," Barlow said. "We are very fortunate that we have people right here on our campus that can step in and do the job."
Ready to go
"I'm very excited about being the coach," Lara said. "I would like for us to have a team that is good enough the first year to attract more people for next year. Maybe even someday have a national-class team."
Gillette College is the only other junior college cross country program in Wyoming.
"I think with some of the schools in Fremont County, maybe they will think twice about leaving to see what they can do with their athletic cross country skills," Lara said.
Cross country provides sports for 10 scholarships per team.
"It would be nice to get 10 to 12 athletes out the first year for boys and girls," Lara said. "If we can get some talent out of that, it would work out good for us. We would love to keep our local talent here. We welcome any runners throughout the United States."
Lara was a national class runner in California.
"You are going to have to work hard with me," Lara said. "I would like my students to do the same. There might be some pressure of asking too much of these kids. In the long run, it will work for them, and the school."
Lara ran at Fresno City College and Fresno State University. He has participated in half marathons and marathons.
Lara said he Fernando Cabada, who later became a world class runner.
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