March 29, 2013

Dalton's Houston ready for another level

Chris Whitfield

— The past four years have showcased the talents of Dalton High School’s Bekah Houston, who is likely to be remembered as one of the area’s best prep distance runners in recent history.

A four-time member of The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Girls Cross Country team who also made the newspaper’s All-Area Spring Team last season for her contributions to the Lady Catamounts’ track and field program, Houston now has her sights set on a bigger stage. On Thursday, she signed an athletic scholarship to run cross country at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.

The connection between Houston and GCSU comes through Margie Bruner, an assistant coach for Dalton High cross country and track who was named Dalton State College cross country coach earlier this year. Bruner’s son John, a former Cats standout, was a member of GCSU’s cross country team before he died from a coronary artery anomaly while competing in the Missionary Ridge Road Race in Chattanooga on Aug. 4, 2007. He was about to begin his sophomore season at GCSU.

“I just always thought it was a good place for her,” Bruner said. “I am glad she found a place that fit her really well, but I guess if I were selfish I would have encouraged her to go to Dalton State.”

Houston was happy to be introduced to the school.

“After coach Bruner suggested it, I visited the campus in Milledgeville and just loved it,” said Houston, whose head coach is Karen Galyon for cross country and Pam Brackett for track. “I knew it was the place for me to go.”

Houston chose GCSU over North Georgia, which also offered her a scholarship. When it came to choosing a college, Houston knew she didn’t want a place where she would feel like a number.

“I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere that was really big,” she said. “I like the small class sizes and the atmosphere of Georgia College. I know my parents didn’t want me to go very far away either.”

For the past three cross country seasons, Houston has been honored as The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Girls Cross County Runner of the Year. This past season, she was fifth at the Region 7-4A meet and finished 24th at the Class 4A state meet in Carrollton.

As a junior, she finished 14th in Class 3A. On the track, she made the state finals in the 800-meter run as a junior and won the Region title as a sophomore.

She also won the Region 7-3A cross country meet title as a sophomore and was third as a junior.

Running has been a big part of her life for the past seven years.

“I started with track in sixth grade, but it was just for fun,” Houston said. “I started running with a purpose in high school. I had very good coaching, and I feel like I worked very hard. It was probably eighth or ninth grade that I knew that I wanted to work as hard as I could and be able to keep running competitively after high school.”

Bruner said Houston will only get better and better at the next level.

“She will get so much faster because she isn’t anywhere near her peak,” Bruner said. “I think her times will come down so quickly. I am excited to see what she can do.”