Humble ISD adds cross country to middle school sports
The interest always was there.
David Johnston, who coached cross country at Humble High School before moving to Creekwood Middle, had more prospective runners than he knew what to do with after arriving on campus 10 years ago.
But without a University Interscholastic League-sanctioned program, all they could do was train on their time, more as a warm-up for track and field, really, without any funding, uniforms or teams.
Now, after Humble ISD added cross country to the list of its sponsored middle school sports this year, they finally have an official, highly organized outlet for their abilities, and the district – already the home of multiple team and individual high school state champions – stands to reap the rewards.
“The parents absolutely loved it, the kids really appreciated the opportunity to get to race a lot, and compete, and it turned out really well,” Johnston said.
They capped their first season with the Humble ISD Middle School Cross Country Championships last Saturday, Oct. 14, at Atascocita, on the same course were the District 21-6A meet was held.
“We’ve had good success, but obviously, maintaining that success is not always easy,” Humble ISD athletic director Troy Kite said. “Starting middle school programs at all of our schools will help that quite a bit, and the middle school coaches have really gotten after it, and our community embraced it.
“There were tons of people out there (last) Saturday, and it was a great time.”
Kite said 316 middle schools kids participated in the first district meet, making for an electric atmosphere.
He expects the numbers to continue climbing.
The former basketball coach, who succeeded former AD Zoe Simpson – who guided Kingwood to seven cross country state titles before moving into administration – lobbied for three years to add cross country at the middle school level before finally receiving school board approval.
New superintendent Elizabeth Fagen was a key proponent.
Her daughter, Meredith Fagen, is a seventh-grade cross country runner and swimmer at Creekwood.
“When you get to the spring, with budget requests and everything like that, there are a ton of great programs that get denied, simply because there’s not enough money for everybody,” Kite said. “So the first couple years this was denied, I totally got it. It’s well worth it, but by the same token, there are a lot of programs that get denied that are worth it. So it’s normally a process to get something approved.”
The community’s approval was immediate.
The athletes have the opportunity to compete as a team at six timed meets – five this year because of Harvey – the middle school coaches have more time to identify and develop young talent, and the high school coaches will receive runners who are ready to contribute more quickly.
“The kids start liking it, and they buy into it, and I’ve got a lot of kids who’ve been really successful, and then other kids who might not be very fast, but they learn to love to run and stay real fit, and have a great time competing and fellowshipping with their teammates,” Johnston said.
Johnston, who played a key role in developing Sandie Raines, Abby Guidry and Olivia Thompson – all Creekwood runners who went on to compete for Kingwood and then sign with Texas – guided the Colts to a team title and two individual championships at the first district competition.
They won the eighth-grade boys team title behind individual champ Diego Contreras.
The Colts finished with 22 points, two more than second-place Kingwood Middle, and Contreras claimed the individual crown with a time of 11 minutes, 52.43 seconds in the 3,200-yard race.
“He won four out of five meets and had a great season,” Johnston said.
Creekwood’s Skye Hoffman (10:17.99) secured the seventh-grade girls individual title in a 2,400-yard event.
Riverwood, led by Jenna Carter, claimed the team title with 35 points.
The Longhorns also collected the seventh-grade boys team title, finishing on top with 19 points, and Carson Parker corralled the eighth-grade girls individual championship with a time of 12:56.09.
Timberwood won the eighth-grade girls team title, and Woodcreek’s Tyler Roenz (9:19.42) was the seventh-grade boys individual champ.
Kite said the district will look at tweaking a few things going forward.
They started with a lower mileage and worked their way up this season but may adjust distances going forward. They’re also looking at creating a more consistent schedule, which doesn’t conflict as much with football and volleyball, and competing more outside of the school district.
But those are problems he’s happy to solve – now that middle school cross country’s a reality.
“Kingwood has had a long history of lots of success, and they keep cranking out really competitive teams on the boys and girls, and so does K-Park and Atascocita, and throughout the district all kinds of kids have been successful,” Johnston said.
“We get them exposed earlier, and learning to train and race, and it’s only going to help.”
Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer.