Jun 5, 2014 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorNew Central Wyoming College cross country coach Al Lara has the program off and running.
Two months ago, CWC announced the addition of cross country to the lineup of sports at the Riverton-based college. CWC leaders they looked for a coach already on staff, and Lara stood out. He already was a dedicated distance runner, and he was employed on campus. In his prime in his California, he ran numerous marathons and many more 5Ks.
Lara is now learning what it takes to sign players to compete at the college level. He is getting out statewide to recruit.
CWC and Gillette College are the only two college cross country programs in the state.
"There was a lot of pressure to start so quick," Lara said. "A lot of the high school seniors have been recruited already. The top seniors are going to get letters back in December. A lot of them will make up their minds by December."
In the three or four times I have interviewed Lara, I can tell he has a deep passion for his job. He is fired up, and he wants to have success.
Last week, Lara signed 2014 Riverton High School graduate Matt Amos, Lara's third runner.
"Matt was referred to by his coach," Lara said. "He is more of a short distance runner, but he was willing to come out for cross country and work hard.
"I told him that I would do the best that I could to make a distance runner out of him. This kid has a great attitude toward school and athletics."
Amos has opened the pipeline between RHS and CWC. Lara wants Lander Valley High School runners to compete for him as well.
I'm looking forward to seeing how many former Riverton Wolverines will be continuing their careers for the Rustlers.
Amos will now join Wyoming Indian's Wilson Clifford and Dylan Lookingbill from Wind River on the CWC roster.
I was happy when Clifford started the list of student athletes to run.
"It feels pretty cool," Clifford said. "It was a good feeling, and I'm excited."
Clifford had a decorated high school career for Wyoming Indian High School under coach Chico Her Many Horses.
"Wilson was high on our list, especially when you are starting this late with the recruiting," Lara said.
Clifford won four straight team Class 2-A titles and finished his career as the two-time individual state champion.
Lookingbill was a star hurdler for Wind River, but he didn't want to give up his running career. Lookingbill won the 110-meter hurdles at the state track meet, and was third in close 300-meter hurdles finals in Casper.
CWC offered him a scholarship, and another Fremont County athlete will be a college distance runner.
"I really have gotten some good feedback for the following year from juniors that will now be seniors," Lara said. "They have shown some interest."
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