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Boos enjoying ‘a great journey’

Like any coach, Cliff Boos wants to see his Powell High School cross country teams succeed.

But winning a race as an individual or a meet as a team is not the primary goal, Boos said. It’s about finding the joy in running, and spending time together as a team.

“Most importantly, they seem to be having a good time,” he said of his teams, which host the Powell Invitational meet today (Thursday) at the Powell Golf Course. “That’s what extracurricular activities are all about.”

The meet starts at 3:30 p.m, beginning with the middle school girls’ race, followed by the middle school boys’ race at around 4 p.m. The high school girls are scheduled to start running their 5,000-meter course at 4:30 p.m., followed by the high school boys a half hour later.

It’s the only home meet of the year for the cross country teams, and it comes as their season heads for the finish line. The Conference Meet is set for Friday, Oct. 18, in Cody, followed by the State Meet in Sheridan on Saturday, Oct. 26.

This is Boos’ 17th season as the head man for the cross country team. He also coaches the distance runners for the track team, a post he has held for 35 years.

Cross country is hardly a glamour sport. Meets are held in the afternoon before small gatherings of family members and friends; there are no stadiums filled with roaring fans. Bands don’t play, and cheerleaders aren’t there, either.

It’s a solitary endeavor in a team setting.

Powell High School discontinued the program for several years, and when it was brought back, there was no funding. Team members helped cover costs, and Powell runners shared a bus with Cody to get to meets.

But a dozen years ago, the program was funded. All through these seasons, Boos has been the constant. His girls teams have won three state titles, in 2006, 2008 and 2010, and the boys came close twice. They’ve won their share of meets, but the coach focuses on helping his charges run as well as possible, and learn to love the sport.

Some, he said, have returned after graduating and told him they still run, which makes him happy. It’s something worth doing your entire life, Boos said, both to stay in shape and to enjoy the feeling of movement.

He works for the school district as a psychometrist, where he assesses students to see if they have special needs the district must provide. It’s a job that demands a light, gentle approach, and he brings that style to the cross country teams, too.

Senior Quin Wetzel, 18, said he has enjoyed running cross country all four of his high school years, and Boos is a big reason for that.

“Coach Boos is one of the best coaches I have ever had,” Wetzel said. “He’s quiet and mild, but he really does know his stuff when it comes to running, and he’s been a great coach all four years.”

Unlike Wetzel, this is junior Michael Steiner’s first year on the Powell cross country team after transferring from Lovell.

“I love the cross country program here,” said Steiner, 17. “It’s a lot of fun, more fun than I’ve had before.”

He said Boos noticed that while he had a lot of endurance as a runner, he needed speed. So the coach worked with him, and he was able to pick up the pace.

“He really understands,” said sophomore Robert Burke, 15. “It’s a self-driven sport and I like to push myself. He makes it fun.”

The members of the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams said they have never experienced such a close relationship as they have found with their teammates. Boos helps create that environment, they said.

Senior Carly Klein, 17, said she can talk about the sport, or watch Disney movies and eat spaghetti with the other girls on the squad. The teammates become extremely close, and that helps them improve, she said.

“We work together and encourage each other’s spirits,” Klein said. “He’s always there to do it for us, too.”

Freshman Kiley Cannon was succinct: “He’s the best,” said the 15-year-old.

“This is the best team I’ve ever been part of,” said junior Bailey Sanders, 16. “We love him. He’s so sweet and encouraging — he’s super supportive.”

Freshman Teo Faulkner, 14, said Boos helps the athletes relax and become as successful as possible.

“He’s really nice,” she said. “He’s really supportive.”

Ben Wetzel, a 16-year-old junior, joined the team last season. He said he enjoys the “self-discipline” of the sport.

“I think a lot of it is the challenge of it,”  Ben said. “You find you get out of it what you put into it. It’s a gauge of character.”

His brother, Quin, said he enjoys improving as the season goes along.

“Running isn’t always the most exciting sport,” he said. “It’s definitely work to see yourself improve.”

Boos seconded that opinion.

“It’s really exciting to see how everyone is progressing, but improvement is what you’re after, working together as a unit to get better,” he said.

PHS Activities Director Tim Wormald, who is in his fifth year, said Boos is a joy to work with, and has impressed him with his devotion to the team.

“He’s great. Very easy-going, always puts the kids first,” Wormald said. “Very positive.”

Boos didn’t care to disclose his age, just saying he is in his mid-60s. He still runs about 30 miles a week and also rides his bicycle and hikes to stay in shape.

He was born in Chicago but grew up in Pennsylvania, and didn’t start to run competitively until his senior year in high school in Sunbury, Pa., when he came out for the track team. The school didn’t have a cross country squad, he said.

Boos enrolled at Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, where he ran both cross country and track. After a stint in the Marine Corps, where he continued to run competitively, Boos earned a master’s degree in school psychology from Idaho State University and then came to Wyoming, after always wanting to spend time in the West.

He and his wife Carol, a Worland native, settled in Powell and made it their home. Their daughter grew up here, and now lives in Virginia. Like her dad, she likes to keep moving, and she was on a trip in Europe last week.

“She’s a traveler,” Boos said with a smile.

Carol taught school for many years, including several years as a third-grade teacher at Westside Elementary School. She was stricken by a sudden illness in 2011, and died on July 2, 2011.

Cliff Boos said friends, people he knows in the school district and community members were very supportive at that difficult time.

“They were very caring, and very empathetic,” he said.

It helps to have his cross country teams, and the boys and girls are all very devoted to him.

Assistant coach Ashley Hildebrand is also a major part of the program, Boos said. She joined the team shortly after it was relaunched, and is a very enthusiastic supporter of the runners, he said.

Wormald said the two coaches work well together, with Boos’ laconic nature and Hildebrand’s exuberance.

“The two of them together are a great combination,” he said. “Always positive, always looking at the silver lining. They’re always concerned about the kids first.”

Boos said he’s not sure how much longer he will coach. He said he takes it “a day at a time.”

Boos said he hopes the kids do well at today’s meet, as well as during the conference and state competitions.

“They’re a good young group, especially the boys,” he said. “They have a good attitude, too, and it’s a good atmosphere. They’re very supportive of each other, and very respectful of their opponent, which is good.”

But he didn’t care to offer a guess on how well they might do.

“I am not a predictor. We will do our best. Whatever happens, happens,”  Boos said. “We are a team. The kids really try to do better for each other, and that’s rewarding.”

However, the veteran coach admitted he was “getting sad” as the season winds down, a thought that struck him during a recent bus ride after a meet.

“All part of the game, though,” he said. “Sure a great journey while it lasts.”

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