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Duane Smiley ().
Duane Smiley ().

The La Grande cross country team has a new coach, and he plans to stay for a while.

The highly successful program, which shut down for a couple of years in the mid-90s and had two coaches the past two years, will be coached by Duane Smiley.

Smiley, a pastor at New Song Community Church, came to La Grande a year ago. He is looking forward to not only taking over the cross country program, but to taking over a strong program.

"I'd like to do it for four, five, six years," said Smiley. "I look at the possibilities of where they could finish ... I'm really looking forward to it."

Last year, the cross country team had one of its most successful seasons ever, with the boy's team finishing ninth at state. and the girl's team 14th. Most of the La Grande boys are coming back from last year.

The team was coached by an interim coach, Ian Schroeder, an Eastern Oregon University cross country runner. Schroeder red-shirted last year, but this year, he is one of the best runners on the varsity squad at Eastern and will be busy helping his team go after a possible NAIA national championship.

La Grande High School wasn't able to find a replacement until this week. Athletic director Jim Martin said it was a "good hire.

"We're thrilled to have him on board. He has a great running background, a great track and field background," said Martin.

Smiley ran in high school and at George Fox University.

He's run half-marathons, and has specialized in running 5K and 10K distances.

Smiley won't be afraid to get in there and train along with his athletes.

"I plan to run with them," he said.

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