LTCC tabs Airola to lead launch of cross country, long distance track programs |

LTCC tabs Airola to lead launch of cross country, long distance track programs

Submitted to the Tribune
Matt Airola

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Lake Tahoe Community College has hired a seasoned community college coach and former student-athlete champion to launch and lead its new collegiate cross country and long distance track programs. 

Matthew Airola, a two-time California Community College Athletic Association individual cross country and track and field champion with extensive coaching experience, will start at LTCC this month, with the program’s first competitive season beginning in August.

“We’ve had great success in our men’s and women’s soccer programs, with a number of students making All-America scholar teams, earning valuable scholarships, and transferring to four-year universities,” said LTCC Superintendent/President Jeff DeFranco. “We are looking to achieve similar success here with our next chapter of athletic undertakings.”

After launching its soccer programs in the 2014-15 academic year, LTCC began exploring the idea of adding additional sports within five years. The pandemic delayed that process, but with Airola’s hiring, cross country and long distance track is set to start for the 2023-24 year.

“Matt has first-hand knowledge and experience in all aspects of his new position,” said DeFranco. “He knows what it takes to succeed at the highest level of a California Community College as a student- athlete, and then to transfer to a major four-year institution and achieve both academically and as an athlete.”

Airola, from Angels Camp, and a 2010 Bret Harte graduate, was a two-time CCCAA individual cross country and track and field champion at American River College in Sacramento. He was a key member in helping ARC to earn CCCAA state titles as a student-athlete (2011-12), and then later as a volunteer assistant coach (2015-16).

Airola earned a full-ride scholarship to the University of Alabama for both cross country and track and field, where he was awarded his Bachelor’s Degree in human environmental science. He was named to the NCAA Division 1 All-Academic team for two years during his undergraduate years, and also served as the cross country team captain.

He went on to earn his Master’s Degree in sport management at the University of Alabama while continuing to hone his leadership and mentoring skills. He earned a second Master’s Degree from Fresno Pacific University in kinesiology.

Airola has been both a teacher and a coach, and has worked with students from junior high school and high school at Carquinez Middle School in Crockett, Calif., and Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton, to college students, first as the assistant cross country and track and field coach at ARC and as the head cross country coach at College of the Desert in Palm Desert.

Airola will begin this month with a focus on athlete recruitment and launching the program in order to be ready for August. He plans on launching with at least 14 athletes, and hopes to expand the roster to 24 student-athletes in the second and third seasons. In alignment with the college’s mission to encourage degree completion, students must be registered full time at LTCC in order to participate in collegiate athletics.

LTCC competes in the CCCAA’s Golden Valley Conference, which includes Butte College, Feather River College, Lassen College, College of the Redwoods, Shasta College, and College of the Siskiyous. The cross country season takes place in fall, and long distance track launches in spring 2024.

Interested student-athletes and parents who want to learn more about these sports and about being a student-athlete at LTCC can contact Airola at

“Lake Tahoe is a distance runner’s dream location, and I cannot think of a more perfect place to begin my lifelong coaching journey,” said Airola. “I’m looking forward to bringing in the most well-rounded student-athletes to this amazing school while building one of the most elite programs in the CCCAA.”

Matt Airola competing for American River College.

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