BY JOEY LAFRANCA
PLATTSBURGH — Clinton Community College will showcase new athletic programs this fall.
What was once viewed as just a possibility a few years ago has become a reality.
Clinton has decided to offer men’s and women’s cross country to student-athletes and tabbed two local coaches who own an enthusiastic passion for the sport to lead the way.
Keith Bombard will be the head coach, and Bombard named Andy Hastings his assistant.
“It’s probably been an idea that was bounced around for a couple years now, and I just think it would be a good addition to the Clinton sports program,” Clinton Athletic Director Kevin Daugherty said.
“It makes sense for the area. It’s a nice fall sport, and we have a lot of local talent. We just wanted to make sure we got the right guys leading the way, and we did that by getting Keith Bombard and Andy Hastings.
“We are talking about two guys that are really well thought of in the community and two men who have a passion for the sport. They work hard at what they do, and they are two guys that kids will want to run and work hard for.”
‘EXCITED FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY’
Bombard possesses a combined 14 years of coaching cross country as well as track at the high school level, and he has spent the past 10 years coaching cross country at Seton Catholic.
Bombard said he cherishes his time as a coach of the Knights.
He acknowledged his disappointment to leave Seton Catholic but has plenty of excitement to start a program from scratch at Clinton.
“I really enjoyed the support that you get from the families at Seton,” Bombard said.
“The parental support is just phenomenal there, and all the kids there are great and fun to work with. It was not an easy decision to leave soon because of those specific reasons, but I am excited for this opportunity.
“Andy and I are going to be making a lot of contact with local coaches to let them know there is an opportunity at Clinton for their athletes to extend their cross country careers. Once the word gets out, we will have more success. Building the program is not going to happen over night, but it is going to happen.”
In addition to competing against NJCAA Region III opponents, Bombard said Clinton athletes could also potentially enter other college-level competition, such as an invitational at Plattsburgh State or St. Lawrence.
Focusing on the inaugural season and the initial recruiting process, Bombard wants to have at least five athletes on both the men’s and women’s squads, which will allow Clinton to score at meets.
“I would like to be able to build a program that utilizes a lot of our local talent,” Bombard said. “I think a lot of kids don’t feel that they can run in college for whatever reason, and I know that’s not true.
“I know a lot of kids that have gone to Clinton in the past would have liked to run but did not have the program to do that, but that program is going to be there now.”
Hastings, who taught physical education at Beekmantown, coached cross country and track for 23 years at the school before retiring last June.
Before his time at Beekmantown, he coached nine years at Brushton-Moira.
The longtime coach was thrilled when Bombard told him about the opportunity at Clinton.
“I definitely miss coaching,” Hastings said. “I have not been out of it that long, but when cross country rolled around this past August, I kind of missed it. When Keith asked me if I was interested in serving as the assistant coach, I was all for it.”
The relationship between Bombard and Hastings dates back nearly 40 years.
While in college, Bombard started his coaching career at Saranac and coached Hastings from 1979 to 1981.
“I am really happy and appreciate the offer from Kevin and Keith to be the assistant coach,” Hastings said. “Keith and I go way back. He was my mentor growing up, and I am very privileged to work with him and start something at Clinton.
“We have a lot of kids in our area that end up going to Clinton that were very good runners in our area. This is a perfect opportunity for kids that want to continue running and want to go to a college that offers an outstanding education.”
ATTRACTING NEW STUDENTS
While the addition of cross country bolsters the college’s athletic program, Clinton Dean of Student Affairs John Borner hopes the new sport can increase enrollment.
Borner’s faith in Bombard and Hastings gives him confidence that cross country will help Clinton in many ways.
“When you look at what community colleges are supposed to be all about, it’s about giving students a start and an opportunity to discover who they are and what they want to do for a career,” Borner said.
“I see a great opportunity for students who are interested in cross country to come to Clinton and excel at the sport as well as their academics.
“Both Keith and Andy are very respected in this area and have experienced a lot of success with the athletes they have coached. Now they will work with students in college and understand the challenges they face as student-athletes.”
‘GOOD THINGS WILL HAPPEN’
Both Daugherty and Bombard noted how cross country fits perfectly for Clinton, pointing out that plenty of local interest exists and how the North Country fall presents quality weather conditions for the sport.
While there will be challenges throughout the startup process, Bombard said the right group of people are working together to make Clinton’s cross country program a success.
“The fact that I know I am going to be working with Andy as well as others at Clinton makes me sure that good things will happen,” Bombard said.
“As long as we are going to be building this from scratch, I could not think of a better person to do it with than Andy.
“We have a chance to do something special.”
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