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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Cross Country

Runs in the family: Brothers Branch and Miles Cox bring family ties to UH cross-country

Miles Cox (left) and his older brother Branch (right) have competed in sports together their whole lives, and now at UH they’ve proven to be invaluable teammates. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Many athletes refer to their teammates as their brothers or sisters, but for UH cross-country runners Branch and Miles Cox, that’s all they know.

The Cox brothers, originally from Amarillo, have always found comfort in running together. Though two years apart, they have always known that they wanted to run at the same school. 

Branch, an exercise science senior, started his cross-country career at the University of Oklahoma, but when the brothers visited UH they knew it was the place for them. 

“We both had an official visit and just fell in love with everything,” Miles, a sophomore studying sports administration, said. “The coach at the time, the people on the team, the parks that we run at, just Houston as a city.”

Branch started running his freshman year of high school and wasn’t sure what he had gotten himself into.

“I kind of just showed up and they said, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ve been like meeting all summer’,” he said. “So I was pretty bad to start off.”

His experience quickly changed, however, after only one year on the junior varsity team, he was bumped up to varsity. At the end of his sophomore year, he was named the Most Valuable Player. 

Following in his brother’s footsteps, Miles decided to give cross country a try as well. A decision that paid off because now he is the Amarillo High School record-holder for the 3,200-meter run with a time of 9:13.

“I think as we progressed, we realized that we could actually be pretty good at it,” Branch said. “And then we just kept taking it more seriously.”

Although their high school experience was beneficial, their hometown was not always as cooperative. According to TreeHugger, Amarillo is the second windiest city in the nation with a daily average of 13.6 mph winds. Branch said that it wasn’t always pleasant to run in, but it made them tough. 

Having a built-in running buddy has been a big help, as well. Branch says that the two rely on each other heavily during practices.

“Oh yeah, 100%. Always going to have someone to push you,” Branch said. “On the days that I say I’m going to do 8, he says he’s going to do 10, then you feel like you need to do more.” 

He added that running is mostly just getting out the door, but having another person to keep you accountable makes things that much easier.

“Taking that first step is the hardest part,” Branch said. “So if you have other people, you’ll be more motivated to start.” 

Athleticism runs — no pun intended — in the family. Their mother Michelle made it to State for cross country during her high school years and their three younger siblings stay just as active.

“Our little brother, Grady, plays tennis,” Branch said. “Karis and Elizabeth, our younger two sisters, are still trying to figure out what their main sport will be, but they’re both pretty athletic.”

Though the younger siblings haven’t found their sport, they do what they can to stay involved.

“Elizabeth will ride the bike with us on runs, so that’s nice,” Branch said.  

Coming from a household that didn’t play video games, their childhood was built on playing outside and participating in youth sports.

“They threw us into every sport when we were little,” Miles said. “Basketball, baseball, football, and I think that molded us.”

Some may think that being brothers and teammates as well as having such an upbringing promotes a competitive environment in running, but Branch and Miles leave that for the basketball court. 

When they’re not practicing or doing school work, recreational basketball is their go-to. They say it’s been a hobby since they were little and that it’s a nice way to let their competitive energy out.

“Yesterday we played a little two-on-two basketball game with some random kids,” Branch said. “And it got pretty competitive.”

During practices and races, however, they stay level-headed.

“We don’t make it too stressful,” Branch said. “But we still push each other at the same time.”

Using each other for motivation has been advantageous for both of them. Branch was the first Cougar and Miles was the third to cross the finish line at the Big 12 Conference Championship this year. The two repeated the same order in the NCAA Regionals on the way to UH’s best Regional finish since 2019.

In the 2022 season, Branch was a top three finisher in four meets last season, while Miles finished second in two 8k races and third in the final four races of the season. 

The pair have always been close-knit, but attending Houston together has helped them grow even closer.

“College is a time that you grow as a person,” Branch said. “So that we can do a lot of the same stuff together is pretty cool.”

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