Kingwood’s Cross Country program, like many Kingwood athletic programs, has had a long history of success. Since 1988, the men’s program has racked up 20 district titles, 13 regional titles, 9 state titles, and 3 national championships. Since 1983, the women’s program has won 26 district titles, 24 regional titles, 8 state titles, and has been Nike National Qualifiers 4 times. The simple version: A Tradition of Excellence.
“One thing we look for in a team: We look at the athletes that we have and we try to make them the best we can.” Those are the words of Men’s Head Coach Tate Symons. He has been with Kingwood High School since 1999 and took over the men’s program the following school year; His team finished 3rd in district this year although he admitted that the men’s team has gone beyond expectations. Even getting 3rd place was not expected of these young men and they achieved that status finishing only behind College Park and The Woodlands. At the district meet Kingwood defeated some stiff competition. “I think we’ve made a lot of improvement and become a much stronger team,” senior runner Charles Mills stated. Mills began running during his freshman year. “He’s made huge improvements each year,” Coach Symons mentioned. Mills has established himself as the #1 runner for Kingwood and Coach Symons said that although the underclassmen may be intimidated and reluctant to ask him for guidance, he and all of the upperclassmen will be there to help their fellow team mates in any capacity. “If they need me to tell them something, I will. Like if I see them nervous on the line or something,” Mills confessed. The Mustangs consist of a freshman, JV, and Varsity team with 7 runners on each team at district.
Christie Burleson runs the women’s side of the program and enters her 13th year coaching at KHS and took over at the helm in 2006 for the Mustangs. They won district this season and overall Coach Burleson could not be more pleased with how the girls have been doing. “We’ve had a very successful season, they’ve come along each week, and they’ve gotten better each week,” Coach Burleson stated. In order to get to the caliber they want to be at Coach Burleson stated that they must have a “unique combination” of things such as talent, commitment, unity, and even a little luck. She has a long standing tie to Kingwood High School having graduated there in 1997. Her assistant coach is her father and former Kingwood HS men’s coach Zoe Simpson. He ran the program from 1984-1999 until becoming the Humble ISD Athletic Director for 8 years eventually returning to coaching at KHS. Coach Burleson is married to Kingwood Park’s head men’s basketball Coach Justin Burleson.
One of the girls, junior Abby Guidry, has been at the top of her game all season long breaking 18 minutes in the 5K for the first time in her career and individually took first place in district leading the Mustangs to win District 16-6A. Her success has even been recognized by dyestat.com, which is a national ranking system. “That’s the first time I’ve been on there so that was really exciting!” Guidry said. The girls have gelled well and Abby credits part of their success on that: “We are a really close team and we get along really well, really no issues. It’s really easy to want to run for those girls,” Guidry added.
Both Burleson and Symons admitted that their teams overachieved and that came with hard work and determination throughout the season. At the UIL 6A Region II meet Charles Mills placed 8th in the 5,000 Meter Run with a time of 15:44:50 and Harry Bellow placed 21st (16:05:50), and Gavin Martella 54th (16:49:80). The Mustangs just missed advancing finishing 6th with 203 points. For the girls Abby Guidry placed 2nd in the 5,000 Meter Run with a time of 17:47:50 and 7 girls total finished in the top 30. The girls claimed the region II title with 63 points. In the UIL State Cross Country Championships Abby Guidry placed 5th with a time of 18:06:47 in the 5,000 Meter Run while Erin Greenwood placed 26th (19:03:45), Erin Gallagher 30th (19:10:41), and Olivia Thompson 32nd (19:12:34). The girls finished 3rd overall with 104 points.
Written by Mark M. Johnson