He strides across the track at an incredible speed, pumping his arms back and forth, racing towards the finish line. Ten seconds later, Jose Garcia completes the race and is later named a state track champion.
Garcia, a senior at Harlingen High School won first place in the 100-meter dash at the UIL Class 6A State Track and Field meet in May 2021.
“I just couldn’t think of anything,” Garcia said about his thoughts during his state-winning run. “I was just letting my emotions out and thinking about how I really liked this sport and how I really wanted to win this race.”
Garcia began running track when he was a seventh-grade student at Gutierrez Middle School.
“Me and a buddy of mine, we were just thinking about sports,” Garcia said. “And track wasn’t really our thing, but we were seeing other kids run out there, so I asked him if he wanted to try it out, and from there, things started happening, you know?”
Harlingen High School Cross Country and Track coach Efrain Ambriz first met Garcia when he watched him compete in a race.
“The first time I met Jose, he was an eighth-grader,” Ambriz said. “I was told by middle school coaches to go look at this kid who was running some fantastic times. You hear that a lot, on all levels and for all sports. So, I did, and that’s the first time I can remember when people were lining up for the hundred. They were lined up along the rails, and when I saw that, I thought that was kind of strange. It’s not normal for a middle school meet, but then I saw him run, and I knew exactly why they were lined up. At the time, he was very raw, but you could see that he had the ability, the athletic factor, to be a great track athlete.”
Ambriz recognized Garcia’s athletic talent at that point, but over the next few years, he saw him further develop as an athlete.
“I remember we were at a big meet, and I asked him, ‘Hey when is the last time you lost a race?” and he was like, ‘I’ve never lost a race, coach.” and I said, ‘Oh wow, okay.’ You know at that point he was a freshman, so he knew he was competing against some older athletes. He might have finished third or fourth in that race, and that was a great parameter for where he was going to be in the future. Sometimes you get an athlete who loses, and they think they’ve reached their plateau, but I noticed the change in him the next year. His dedication to the sport, just his attention to detail, and his drive became a lot greater. That is the first time he made state, his sophomore year, so you could see the transformation then and there.”
After a year of canceled and postponed events due to the pandemic and other obstacles including an injury, becoming a state track champion wasn’t an easy task.
“It took a lot of focus and a lot of sacrifices, especially my junior year when I almost gave up on track because of my Achilles injury,” Garcia said. “But at the same time, my coaches, my family, and my friends never gave up on me. They always pushed me forward. From there we just started working, taking care of my Achilles, especially doing whatever I could do. So, I kept my head straight and kept the team going because I really love my team.”
Through pure determination and raw athletic ability, Garcia returned to Harlingen after competing at the state meet, with three medals. Along with his first-place win in the 100-meter dash, he also earned second-place medals in long jump and the 200-meter dash.
“It’s a credit to him,” Ambriz said. “We love him. His success is our success. That’s what I always tell our athletes, ‘Whatever success you guys have as a team or as an individual, it’s our success. It’s your family’s success, it’ our community’s success, it’s our school district’s success.’”
Garcia hopes to major in kinesiology. On June 9, he signed with The University of Texas at San Antonio to pursue his academic and athletic dreams.