Harlingen Cardinals senior Jose Garcia reacts after winning the 100-meter dash state championship and setting a state and national record in the event at the UIL's Class 6A State Track & Field Championships on Saturday at Mike A. Meyers Stadium in Austin. (Robert Villafranca | Special to The Monitor)

AUSTIN — Harlingen High’s Jose Garcia spent two years preparing for the biggest 10 seconds of his entire career.

After finishing ninth in the 100-meter dash finals as a sophomore and having his junior season wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cardinals’ senior sprinter capitalized on his long-awaited opportunity to return to the UIL’s Class 6A State Track & Field Championships on Saturday at Mike A. Meyers Stadium.

Garcia medaled in each of his three individual events and highlighted an extraordinary day at the 6A state meet with a historic finish in the 100-meter dash capturing an individual state championship with a wind-aided time of 10.0 seconds, which if it holds, represents a new state and national record in the event.

“It feels amazing, words can’t explain it. All the glory goes to God above, my family and everyone who’s supported me, especially the Valley,” Garcia said.

“It was crazy. I was just so pumped and excited and so was the whole crowd. I needed Connor Washington; I needed someone to push me just like that too. He hit a 10-flat too and I’m proud of him too.”

Garcia’s official time of 9.998 seconds (+5.1) ranks as the third-fastest all-conditions high school 100-meter dash time in national history trailing only Houston Strake Jesuit’s Matthew Boling, who clocked in at 9.98 seconds (+4.2) during the 2019 UIL Region III-6A meet, and Trayvon Bromell, who posted a time of 9.99 seconds (+4.0) as a senior at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, Florida, while competing at the 2013 Great Southwest Classic in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

His historic finish also set a new all-time, all-conditions UIL state meet record in the 100 after surpassing the previous mark of 10.13 seconds recorded by Boling, who beat Garcia to set that mark during the 2019 6A State Track & Field Championships on the same track.

Garcia eked out the photo-finish victory Saturday by edging out Conroe Woodlands College Park’s Connor Washington by one-thousandth of a second to clinch the Rio Grande Valley’s only individual state championship of the weekend.

“It feels great. It’s an honor and I’ve always wanted to be here. Sophomore year it didn’t work out because there were some top-flight, elite athletes, but it was a great experience and now I’m here winning it. It’s just an honor and all that hard work has paid off,” Garcia said.

“There were a lot of sacrifices, especially being out for the season my junior year, but I’ve always stayed confident in mind and tried to keep growing and grinding. Just to see where I’m at now, standing here with a state medal, it shows that hard work pays off.”

Garcia rounded out the peak performance of his high school career by seizing second-place finishes in both the long jump and 200-meter dash.

The Harlingen senior won a silver medal after posting a leap of 24 feet and 1 inch in his fifth of six tries in the long jump, narrowly losing to Austin Westlake sophomore Ashton Torns by a quarter of an inch.

Garcia finished his night by taking second place in the 200, finishing behind Washington by a fifth of a second after posting a time of 20.59 seconds.

“It’s been a heck of a hustle with a lot of hard work. Thank you to my coaches and everyone who pushed me to make me feel like I got this and anything is possible,” he said. “I’m just proud of myself, especially for everyone who supported me. … I’m just holding in tears right now, but it’s such an honor to compete here and be back.”

Garcia also ran as the anchor in the Cardinals’ 4×100 meter relay team — which also included Pedro Luna, Eric Quilantan and Ezvyn Zuniga — to secure a seventh-place finish with a time of 41.13 seconds to break the Valley’s all-time record in the event for the third consecutive meet.

He concludes a decorated high school career with his best all-around performance in his final meet to cement his status as one of the Rio Grande Valley’s all-time track and field greats by claiming several regional records.

Garcia, who is still uncommitted but wishes to continue competing collegiately, thanked the dozens of Harlingen supporters who made the five-hour drive to Austin to cheer him on and was humbled to represent the Rio Grande Valley on the state’s biggest stage in his last competition in a Cardinals’ uniform.

“I just want to thank the fans, my family, my loved ones especially and the Valley. A lot of kids want to be in my shoes and it’s just about hard work. Anything is possible,” he said.

“I really appreciate them coming all the way to Austin to see me perform and post crazy times that put Harlingen and the Valley on the map so that people up here can see that kids down there have the potential to make it to the next level.”

In other Class 1A and 6A state championship races, a pair of Valley distance runners claimed top-five finishes.

Lasara’s Selissa Gonzalez became the third Valley athlete to earn a spot on the podium Saturday, joining Garcia and teammate Xiomara Rodriguez, who finished second in the 1A girls discus throw.

Gonzalez used a strong finish to win third place in the 1A 800-meter run with a time of 2 minutes and 27.78 seconds to pass two competitors on the final lap to land on the podium. She also recorded a ninth-place finish in the 1600-meter run clocking in at 5 minutes, 50.23 seconds.

“It feels amazing. This is my first time at state and it’s been a tough season, but I’m so excited to finally medal at state. It means so much because I worked so hard this past season after suffering an injury (that kept me out) this whole past year. I finally got to show what I got,” Gonzalez said.

“My coach has always said to sprint the last 20 meters no matter what and do whatever it takes to get that medal. It means a lot and I love all the support from my family and coaches that are here.”

Weslaco High senior Amity Ebarb joined Garcia in making her return to state after qualifying as both a freshman and sophomore and last year’s state championship meet was canceled in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ebarb, who was participating in her eighth state title race between cross country and track, placed fourth with a time of 2 minutes, 12.5 seconds to secure the best overall finish in a state championship race during her illustrious high school career.

Ebarb, a Texas Longhorns signee, surpassed Lewisville Flower Mound freshman Nicole Humphries in the final 100 meters of the race and finished less than half a second away from earning a third-place medal.

Lasara’s Victoria Velazquez rounded out the RGV competitors racing at Saturday’s state championships by clocking in at 12 minutes, 41.54 seconds in the 1A 3200-meter run for eighth place.

Harlingen’s Eric Quilantan, who qualified for state in the 6A 400-meter dash, did not start in the event’s finals for unspecified reasons.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to add historical context to Garcia’s 100-meter dash time.

Email: amcculloch@themonitor.com

Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch