Pitzel's Picks: Klein Bearkats

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Amy Pitzel coached track and field and cross country for 16 years. Her most recent stint was at Katy Tompkins in Katy ISD. She led the Tompkins girls to three consecutive UIL 6A state meet team qualifications in 2017, 2018, and 2019 with a 2017 Region 3-6A team championship and runner-up finishes in 2018 and 2019. Pitzel was named Gulf Coast Scholastic Track and Field Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2017.

This season, she will pick Texas high school coaches and athletes throughout the season to discuss a variety of topics.

Welcome to the second edition of "Pitzel's Picks" with Coach Amy Pitzel. This week I was able to sit down with the Klein XC Head Coach Daniel Lawton and four of his runners, Thomas Kubala, Jerry Mendez, Kristen McHugh and Kathryn "Katie" Koonts.

Klein Cross Country has been a top program placing sixth on the girls side last year, both programs seventh place in 2020 and the boys finishing fourth in State in 2019. The girls' team returns everyone from the sixth place team last year and has their mind set on getting the team on the podium this year.

Coach Daniel Lawton has been with the program on and off since 2007 and has increased their mileage this summer to increase their strength as a team. He has strong returners and has three standout Freshmen in Paige Meinhardt, Kamdyn Spencer and Aubrey Maudlin

The boys' team is still rebuilding after sending multiple runners to compete in college, but they are led by two stars in Milesplit Pre-Season Second Team All -State runners, Thomas Kubala and Jerry Mendez, as well as a strong freshmen group. They have seven freshmen on the team this year and Coach Lawton described them as having a "bright future as a group."

Thomas Kubala is looking for redemption this season as he did not complete his XC season last fall, but did incredible in track with a fifth place finish at State in the 3200m and PRs of 9:04 and 4:15. He wants to show he can compete in the 5K and his coach believes he can. Jerry Mendez also did not have the season he wanted last fall, but then excelled on the track. Jerry placed fourth in State in the 1600m with a 4:10 and also ran a 9:28 for the 3200m. Both Jerry and Thomas want to work together to get on the podium as individuals. 

CCCAT has ranked the Klein Girls' Team as fourth in the State, but Coach Lawton believes they have the drive and work ethic to finish top three. Kristen McHugh is now a senior and looking to lead her team to great things. Kristen had a stellar sophomore season and placed 15th in the State with track PRs of 5:12 and 11:10. She opened up about having a rough junior year where she lost her Mom. She struggled to focus and train and was under-fueling. Her former Coach, Timothy McGuire, and Coach Daniel Lawton, kept in contact every day and let her know they still believed in her. Kristen said she took, "one step back for a huge leap forward." Expect big things from her this season and college coaches know that she wants to run next year!

Kristen appreciates her teammates, Reagan Smith, Isabella Rivault, Lizbeth Andrade and Daniela Mendez for keeping practice fun. Katie Koonts is a special kind of athlete as she has placed 20th in State as a Freshmen, 5th in State as a Sophomore and all while balancing being a Varsity Volleyball player. Katie has PRs from Track of 5:00 and 10:58 and earned a spot at State in the 1600m last spring. Both Kristen and Katie want to run sub-17 this season and lead their team to a spot on the podium.

Good luck, Klein XC, and I hope you have an awesome season!

-Amy Pitzel