Cardinals standout Garcia poised for big day at state meet

HARLINGEN — Harlingen High senior Jose Garcia has built one of the most storied track & field careers the Rio Grande Valley has seen.

The speedster won four gold medals at the Region IV meet to headline a Cardinals team that brought home the regional team championship. Garcia will be competing in the 100- and 200-meter dash events, the 400 relay and the long jump at the Class 6A state track & field meet Saturday in Austin.

“It’s exciting. I’m feeling confident, and I’m going to have fun and perform and show everyone that there’s athletes in the Valley,” Garcia said. “It’s going to be great. It’s a big stadium, it’s a running track, so I’ll be good. … (Winning the regional meet) was crazy. We had a strong team last year and we had a feeling we’d win regionals our junior year, and we were aching, you could say, to win it this year, and we got it. It’s a lot of hard work.”

Garcia boasts the fastest qualifying time in the 100 with a 10.17. That mark wasn’t eligible to be a regional record because it was wind-aided, but Garcia owns the fastest time in Region IV anyway. He won the race to advance to his first state meet as a sophomore in 2019, running a 10.43.

Having four events on a state program is no easy task, physically or mentally, but Garcia knows he’s prepared for it. He’s leaning on the experience he gained at his previous state meet to not only keep himself composed, but to guide his teammates through the process, too.

“I always have to be focused and let it flow. For me it’s all in my mind, just getting your mind right and not thinking about anything else and focusing on you. It’s awesome working with these guys and taking them under my wing, too. We help each other out.”

Eric Quilantan, Garcia’s runningmate on the state-bound relay, qualified as the regional champion in the 400. Quilantan credited Garcia’s influence for helping him reach new heights as an individual this season.

“Knowing that you’re practicing with the No. 1 guy in the nation is insane to me. That’s the best workout I can have, him pushing me throughout the year to do my best,” Quilantan said.

Cardinals coach Efrain Ambriz said Garcia has been working on fine-tuning his long jump technique, starts for his sprints and chemistry with the relay. He praised Garcia for his never-ending desire to get better, even though he’s already one of the best to grace the tracks across the Valley.

“The qualities I admire the most about Jose are his dedication to the sport and his willingness to keep learning even though he has reached a competitive level that very few people can. He still wants to get better every day,” Ambriz said.

Garcia feels he’ll be representing more than just himself at the state meet, but he welcomes that extra responsibility. He hopes all of his achievements have directed the eyes of the track world to the talent in the RGV, and he wants to be an inspiration for other athletes that are striving for big things.

“I have little brothers, and I want them to see they can do it, too. And for other upcoming athletes to see this. People say the Valley’s on my back, so I’ll just try to show out and represent,” Garcia said.

ccruz@valleystar.com