The Woodlands Christian - Texas' Best-Kept Secret
In just under a dozen years, The Woodlands Christian Academy has become a TAPPS 4A powerhouse, particularly in Cross Country. Under the tutelage of Head Coach Tom Earle, who started both the Cross Country and Track and Field programs in 2009, The Woodlands Christian Academy has established an impressive resume:
2013 - Girls 3A XC finished as Runner-up
2014 - Girls 3A XC Champion
2015 - Girls 3A XC finished as Runner-up
2015 - Boys 3A XC finished as Runner-up
2015 - Boys 3A Track & Field Champion
2016 - Girls 4A XC Champion
2016 - Girls 4A Track & Field Runner-up
2017 - Girls 4A XC Champion
2017 - Boys 4A XC Champion
2018 - Girls 4A XC Champion
2018 - Girls 4A Track & Field Runner-up
2018 - Boys 4A XC Champion
2019 - Girls 4A XC Champion
2019 - Boys 4A XC Champion
2019 - Boys 4A Track & Field Runner-up
That's nine state titles since 2013 and multiple runner-up honors. Add eight-consecutive girl's track and field district titles, and TWCA may just be Texas' best-kept secret.
"We have continued to grow our numbers since I began the program in 2009 such that our team this year (65 athletes) is 25% of our entire high school. [Eighty middle school athletes also compete in track and field.] That creates a culture throughout the entire high school that our program will always be competitive."
Tom Earle - The Woodlands Christian Head Coach
From twelve total track and field athletes during the inaugural season, Coach Earle has built a program designed for sustainability: "We have continued to grow our numbers since I began the program in 2009 such that our team this year (65 athletes) is 25% of our entire high school. [Eighty middle school athletes also compete in track and field.] That creates a culture throughout the entire high school that our program will always be competitive." And while there is no secret to the creation of any program's positive culture, Coach Earle and his staff have developed a rapport that attracts his school's athletes: "Early on, the athletes came to know and trust that our coaches focused on PRs and individual accomplishments and growth. The coaches spend intentional, focused time to prepare and train each athlete, and then we collectively celebrate each one's own improvements."
Like any successful program, The Woodlands Christian Academy has its star athletes, among them Ellie Catron and Ben Shearer, two of TAPPS' more decorated athletes. "They've both worked with me since 6th grade and fully bought into the program and the progressive nature of the intensity of the workout plan. However, both of them are unique from other athletes in two ways: (1) both are already incredibly gifted, and our coaching philosophy has always been not to rush them or increase the workload too quickly, but instead to make planful progression. (2) They both know their bodies very well. Different from other athletes that might strain to do the entire workout or hit pace times, they both know when it's an off-day and the need to back off. This has kept them both healthy to allow us to adjust daily workouts as needed."
Coach Tom Earle's program has earned success and it's hitting greater heights
Photo Credit: The Woodlands Christian Twitter Page
Coach Earle "grew up in Des Moines, Iowa running cross country and track (mostly 400/800). When [he] graduated, [he] decided to attend the University of Houston and had the opportunity to walk on to the track team under Coach Tom Tellez ('82-'85 and specifically Howie Ryan who was the mid-distance coach)." As for developing a program poised for current and long-term success, Coach Earle has absorbed great lessons from one of the legends in coaching, Coach Tellez: "I intentionally add to my coaching staff for those with specific event experience and have been very blessed to have an incredible staff of eleven coaches now. We communicate across all the workouts and athletes from 5th through 12th grades. This also allows us options for the top 7th/8th graders to even work out with the high school athletes on occasion."
"The coaches spend intentional, focused time to prepare and train each athlete, and then we collectively celebrate each one's own improvements."
Tom Earle - The Woodlands Christian Head Coach
Coach Earl's track and field squads are gunning for rings No.10 and No.11 this year. And their chances? "Our Girl's team is the deepest we've ever had across all jumps, throws, hurdle events, sprints, and distance races. This will obviously allow us to initially pursue once again winning the District Championship because of that depth for scoring points. Last year our Girl's team was Regional Champs and finished 3rd in State. We graduated a number of our top sprinters - so filling that gap is the main focus.
"For the Boys team, we are very strong on the distance races, but relatively young for the sprinters/relays. We have a number of strong athletes coming from football and basketball programs this year and hope to get them into the right Track & Field events to take advantage of their athleticism. Last year, the Boys finished as District Champions, Regional Champs and State Runner-up. We are looking to have the depth across all events like we have on the Girls team to best score points."
The Warriors of The Woodlands expect excellence; it's promoted from the top down. And who knows - come early May, Coach Earle and his athletes may be getting sized for rings No.10 and No.11.