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Wyoming loses 8 cross country runners in crash

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LARAMIE, Wyo. — After spending part of their weekend in Colorado, eight University of Wyoming cross country runners crammed into a sport-utility vehicle to return to campus for a fraternity outing.

On the way, their Jeep Wagoneer collided head-on with a pickup truck of a fellow Wyoming student who had apparently swerved into their lane, killing the eight runners. The driver of the truck was seriously injured in what was the latest in a series of tragedies to strike Wyoming athletics in recent years.

"They were focused on going somewhere. That's why this is so devastating," said Wyoming sophomore Ann Hedderman. "It's such an unnecessary loss."

The victims spent Saturday in Fort Collins, Colo., where they planned on shopping for running shoes and visiting nightclubs, said a friend, Curt Mayer. Victim Shane Shatto called fellow fraternity member Sean Cosgrove to see what was happening back on campus, and he said their Sigma Phi Epsilon house was holding an event. Shatto said he would try to attend.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Sgt. Stephen Townsend said the SUV carrying the athletes collided with the one-ton pickup truck at 1:30 a.m. Sunday, about 17 miles south of Laramie on U.S. 287.

All of the runners except the driver were ejected. Townsend said only the driver of the pickup, Clinton Haskins, was wearing a seat belt.

Authorities would not say whether alcohol was involved, but they are investigating.

Haskins, a senior and steer wrestler on the University of Wyoming rodeo team, was in serious condition at Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie.

Sports information director Kevin McKinney spoke with Oklahoma State University officials about how to handle the tragedy. A plane crash in January killed two Oklahoma State University basketball players and eight others after a game at the University of Colorado.

Students and officials said losing eight classmates is compounded by the fact that they've been following the horror of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon last week.

"It's like blackness on blackness," Hedderman said.

Wyoming athletics have been beset by adversity in recent years.

The losses include a former volleyball coach who died in November from brain injuries suffered in a collision; a former cross country star who disappeared in 1997 while running and still has not been found; and a Wyoming football player who died in April 1997 after passing out on the practice field. Later that year an assistant football coach died of brain cancer.

The victims of the Sunday crash include Shatto, 19; the driver, Nicholas J. Schabron, 20; Justin Lambert-Belanger, 20; Kyle N. Johnson, 20; Kevin L. Salverson, 19; Joshua D. Jones, 22; Morgan McLeland, 21; and Cody B. Brown, 21.

"It's been a very rough week for a lot of people in this country and tragically, it's been all the more rough for our student-athletes and our coaches and all their friends at the University of Wyoming," school President Philip L. Dubois said. "This is a horrible thing."