In wake of Harvey, Kingwood Cross Country builds on success

August 24, 2018

This time last year, Kingwood coaches and players were dealing with Hurricane Harvey, desperately trying to prepare for its arrival, then surviving the aftermath, including devastating flooding.

A full year later, many still are dealing with the repercussions.

Kingwood boys cross country and track and field coach Tate Symons said several of his athletes lost their homes to flooding from the San Jacinto River - and still are trying to get back into their homes.

One athlete’s family is living on the second floor of their house because the first isn’t ready.

“It’s amazing how many houses still are not ready in Kingwood,” Symons said.

Inspired response

Despite the terrible toll on hundreds of families in the Humble ISD area, Kingwood’s cross country athletes, like their volleyball and football counterparts, didn’t sit around feeling sorry for themselves.

They went to work, doing whatever they could to help with recovery.

In fact, the Kingwood volleyball team skipped a trip to Disney World for a tournament to stay home and help out.

“We have a Remind 101 (app) … I can text to the entire team, and when I heard about a house that needed help, I would send out a Remind, ‘Hey, we’re meeting at this guy’s house,’ and it was awesome seeing how many would show up,” Symons said. “Some weren’t in town, and some were affected themselves, so they couldn’t show up, but we had a ton of support for helping people get going.

“That’s the beauty of athletics. It doesn’t matter what sport it is … athletes help each other out so much.”

Sharing time

Figuring out what to do with a flooded campus was more complicated.

Eventually, Humble ISD decided Kingwood’s staff students would share Summer Creek, leading to a split schedule, with Summer Creek holding classes in the morning and Kingwood in the afternoon.

For the cross country team, that actually worked out well.

“We had a tough couple of weeks there, because we were more worried about getting families back together and helping all the runners who lost their houses, and things like that, but most guys kept going, and once we were able to establish a practice time, it was really pretty nice,” Symons said.

“We weren’t rushed in the mornings. We practiced at 7 a.m., and Creekwood (Middle School) was very generous to let us get over there on their site, and Walt Winicki’s an awesome principal.

“So it all worked out well.”

Symons said the time share may was more challenging for the coaches, at least from a productivity standpoint.

“As far as sharing a track office with the Summer Creek coaches, Coach Shelton (Ervin) is awesome,” Symons said. “He was so helpful, gave me a desk and computer, and half the time it was hard to get work done because we sat and talked the whole time.”

Staying strong

The cross country team ended up cancelling two meets because of Harvey, the Kingwood Classmate Challenge and the Marcus 1, but the early-season meets primarily are for the younger runners, and, like the football team, which responded with an inspired playoff run, they found plenty of success.

The Mustangs placed second at the regional meet and sixth at state.

They put two runners in the top 15 at state, with Nick Majerus finishing fourth and Carter Storm 13th, and Trent Nolen, who was 47th overall, cracked the top 50 - and all three athletes are back.

“I was very excited how we finished at state last year,” Symons said. “The kids were a little upset. They wanted to finish higher, which I do appreciate, but at the same time, they were thankful.

“We do expect to finish higher this year.

“Our goal is to win the state meet, so we’re going to do everything we can to do it and we’ll see where we’re at, at the end.”

Starting fresh

They’re already at the beginning - even if the recovery efforts haven’t ended.

The Watermelon Run for coach Jeremy Dye’s girls and the freshmen boys was Aug. 17, and the Classmate Challenge and Marcus 1 meets are back on the schedule, with the Classmate meet set for Aug. 25.

“One of our guys still doesn’t have his kitchen back, so they’re living in the second story of their house,” Symons said. “That’s got to be rough. I lost my house in Hurricane Ike, and it took almost a year to get it back, and that was a crazy time.

“So it’s just as crazy for him, but it’s a good distraction to get out here and get going.”

Perhaps the best news is they’re back in a normal routine.

That means tougher practice scheduling, but it also means some of Kingwood’s biggest meets, like the annual Andy Wells and Zoe Simpson Invitationals are returning to Kingwood, where they belong.

“I love that,” Symons said. “That’s so much nicer for us.

“But to tell the truth, I’m going to miss our 7 a.m. to 9:30 practice not being rushed. That was an awesome schedule. People think it’s going to be easier this year but now we come at 6 a.m. and we’re going to be rushed. We’ll still supplement in the afternoon, but when you’re rushed for time it’s a little harder.

“So we have different struggles this year, but we’ll be fine.”

Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer who can be reached at jasonrmcdaniel@outlook.com.

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