New Coach has Big Shoes to Fill

Clarke County’s new cross country track coach has big shoes to fill when it comes to expectations for a winning season.

CCHS senior Zach Campbell (l) receives workout schedule from cross country head coach Lorenzo Lara - photo Edward Leonard

“Yes, I’m very aware of Clarke County’s winning traditions and I want to get back to the glory days as quickly as possible” said coach Lorenzo Lara.

Coach Lara is a recent arrival to the area after moving here from Texas. Lara, who has an undergraduate degree in exercise science from Shenandoah University and is now pursuing his masters degree in physical education, said that he and his wife decided to return to Virginia after she took a job with the federal government.

“I heard a rumor that Clarke County was looking for a cross country coach so I approached the athletic director about the position” Lara said. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity.”

Lara, who has never held a head coaching position before, said that he is looking forward to getting to know his runners better so that he can assess his team’s strengths and weaknesses. He said that once he has a better sense of each runner he plans to design a weight program and conditioning routine that will complement the running schedule.

“My goal is to increase the mileage that the team runs in safe way” Lara said. “I also want to put more emphasis on making their recovery runs more productive.”

Lara’s said that his approach may not make everyone happy but it’s the quickest way to getting the runners into top form.

“I’ve heard in the past that the recovery runs were often done at the runners own pace. I’d like to challenge that approach a little bit” Lara said. “Also, I know that runners don’t like weight training but I think that it’s important.”

Lara currently has seven boys and fifteen girls on his team.

“I’d like to grow the number of runners if I can” Lara said. He hopes to network through the existing team members to reach other students who may be interested in joining the team.

Lara says that while he wants to develop a winning team as soon as possible, the real pressure for success is coming from his runners.

“I’m definitely getting the message that there is a tradition of winning here” Lara said. “The kids want to go out and live up to that expectation.  But in order to accomplish that I expect them to put in the necessary amount of work.  I am putting my trust in them just like they are putting their trust in me. By working together my expectation is that we can continue Clarke County’s winning traditions.”

Students interested in learning more about Clarke County High School’s cross country team can contact Tammi Rhoads at




  1. What happened to Coach Specht? Good luck filling those running shoes Coach Lara!

  2. letemplay says:

    Think she does Track…

  3. She retired at the end of the 09-10 school year.

    • formerathlete says:

      She retired from school but admin wouldn’t let her coach last fall.
      Don’t know why.
      Not a whole lot of respect shown there!
      She was missed!

  4. Welcome, Coach Lara! : )

    Thank you for stepping up to coach our cross country team!

    Coaching at the high school level is a huge time commitment; I’m grateful that you are willing devote your time to our runners.

    Best Wishes to the Eagles and Coach Lara! Hope the season is great, and that the numbers and interest increase.

  5. Nancy did not coach she was there to support the program she began many years ago. She was not allowed to coach due to some condition in her contract when she retires. Nancy has brought this program along with Track to the eyes of the CCHS. She has won many state championships and was also picked as one of the Coaches of the Year by the Washington Post. She is a humble preson along with being a great English teacher. The new coach will do well and take this team further ahead so let us give him all the support he deserves. Yes,Nancy shoes will be hard to fill but we all deserve a chance.

    • Lest we forget Coach Sweeney and Bowles. Nancy was a great leader, but Sweeney and Bowles feuled the fire for Clarke’s XC success. 11 State Championships in a four year span.

  6. Greyhound says:

    Mr Sam Card would have been an effective, enthusiastic and inspring cross country coach. He helped Jim Daniels at track meets and ran with the high school cross country team last fall. Students know him as a knowledgeable substitute teacher. Sam was elected co-captain of his Massachusetts cross country team and competed in state meets in Boston for 9th, 10th and 11th grade. He ran a 9:50 time for the 2-mile in track and has completed many 26 mile marathons.. In the 1998 Klondike International Road Relay, he ran 16 miles of hills in 2 hours and 3 minutes in Yukon, Canada. Sam Card had the top age 50 male time in the Berryville Turkey Trot. He has hiked all the Appalachian Trail and climbed many mouintains throughout the world. River guide training taught him leadershp and he is a model of good physical fitness for age 51. Sam is devoted to students and he would have given more than 100 percent to be an exellent running coach. Sam would have motivated all his runners to improve and get great results.

    • Mr Mister says:

      Did Sam even apply for the position of coach? I do believe he would have been an asset to the team. Sam would at least be a good assistant coach.

  7. former Clarke runner says:

    Nancy Spect was an excellent coach. She is honored in the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame. She had a dynamic way of motivating her team and drawing out the best from each runner. She gave me confidence and saw that I had potential, if I was willing to work hard. She deserves a lot of credit and respect. It will be a tremendous challenge for any coach to fill her shoes.

  8. Specht, Sweeney, and Bowles. Legends. Best of luck filling those shoes and getting this team back to being the best group of runners in all of VA.

  9. CCHS runner says:

    At JWMS, Jim Daniels and Mrs. Biddle were great running coaches. They were patient and encouraged me to run my best. Having us play minnows and sharks in track was a great way for Mr. Daneils to get us moving, while having fun. Tom Mc Call gave me valuable instructiion in spring track for hurdles. Tom has compassion and wisdom. He was Athletics Director in Ohio for 25 years and knows sports well. Mr. Mc Call was an outstanding high school baseball pitcher and was recruited by major league professional baseball. A high school football injury during his senior yearr stopped Tom from signing a contract to be a pitcher for St. Louis. It is amazing that Jim Daniels has completed 100 mile running races. Mrs Biddle, your children are lucky to have such a kind Mom as you.

  10. CCHS student says:

    Nancy Spect helped with the Berryville Turkey Trot and was a caring English teacher at JWMS. She wanted her runners and students to persue excellence. Her coaching legacy gave glory to our school system. Her mother, Marge Diggs, led the efforts to get a public libray in Berryville.

  11. Many girls are running well for Clarke County these days. Thank you Nancy Spect for being their pioneer. Scott Rutherford told me that Nancy Spect was FAST, but was not allowed to compete in CCHS Boys Track. Scott said boys could not catch her in orchard races. According to CCHS year books from the 1970’s, there were no girls in track and cross country. However, Nancy was the cheerleader coach. Later on as running coach, Nancy paved the way for girls to develop their running talents and compete for their school.

  12. Lonnie Bishop says:

    Y’all seem to be forgettin that this article was about the new XC coach. It’s not about trippin the light nostalgic for Coach Specht. She had her time (and…yes…what a time it was!), but a page has been turned and it’s a new chapter in the book of CCHS cross country. Move on, everyone.

  13. Dustin Sweeney says:

    I’ve had the pleasure to work with and get to know Lorenzo for a number of years. I’m certain that he will do a great job at the helm. CCHS is lucky to have such a passionate and knowledgeable coach. Clarke County is a marvelous place to train and grow as a distance runner.

    As the program ebbs and flows, I hope that the runners, parents and supporters of this team have the patience and confidence that I have in Lorenzo to return Clarke County’s long distance program back to prominence.

    I’d wish you luck, Lorenzo — but as you know, I don’t believe in it — you’ll get the job done!

  14. If I had a penny for every mile that I ran in my life, I would have a hefty savings account. As a coach, I would have been able to develop amd motivate runners. My enthusiasm would have been contagious. At Camp Quinebarge in New Hampshire, I encouraged a young child during the 1993 summer to persue running. He later became an Illinois state high school champion cross country runner. Endurance helped me enjoy rigorous mountain hiking. Best wishes this fall to Lorenzo and his runners. Let’s cheer them on at meets!