Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South cross country runner Seth Garcia and his parents, Angela and Gerardo, are all smiles after Seth signed his National Letter of Intent to Fresno Pacific University on Nov. 17 at Madera South.
Since the Madera South cross country program begin, it has won nine Valley Championships, including five at the Div. I level. However, it’s greatest achievement is its ability to get runners to the next level and this year’s senior leader Seth Garcia will keep that legacy going.
Garcia signed his National Letter of Intent to run cross country and track at Fresno Pacific College on Nov. 17 in front of family and friends at Madera South.
“It’s amazing to be part of the Madera South legacy of going to college,” he said. “There has been many that have run and competed in college. I would be the first one in my family to go to a university. It feels good to be a part of something, even though I’m not part of the team.”
Garcia runs today in the CIF State Cross Country Championships. However, unlike the last nine years, Garcia will be the only Madera South boys cross country runner in the field. His race begins at 9:35 a.m. at Woodward Park.
Garcia joins freshman Christian Nevarez and sophomore girls runner Jonnie Montano on the Sunbirds cross country team.
“It definitely helps to have Madera South athletes on the roster,” Garcia said. “Christian Nevarez is one of my best buddies. I already have a friendship that can grow with the other guys on the team. I don’t have to worry about being the new kid. I already have a foot in the door.”
Fresno Pacific coach Ray Winter jokingly calls Madera South “Fresno Pacific High School.”
“I love the culture of the team, work ethic, character, the family support,” Winter said. “It’s exceptional. Seth is a pillar of those things.
“We have a bit of a streak going,” Winter said. “Before they came, we has Ismael Guzman and on and on. We have a yearbook and every year we have someone from Madera South. It means a lot to us. It goes back to Rich Parris, a Pacific alumn, and Eloy Quintana, another FPU alum.”
Garcia, who also had Holy Names University and Azusa Pacific in contact with him, chose Fresno Pacific because it felt the most comfortable for him.
“When I took my visit there, I felt this was cool,” he said. “I felt like I belonged there. It’s a little community there. The guys didn’t treat me like I was the new recruit. They were already ragging me and making jokes. I felt a connection there. One thing one of the guys told me, he said, whether you go here or somewhere else. When you’re looking for a school, don’t just look for the big money or they are a fast school. Look for the relationships. Do you have a relationship with the guys. After that day, I went home and talked to my parents about it. I said I have a relationship with those guys. I only knew them for a half hour and I was already playing video games with them. Those relationships built so fast.”
In addition, by going to college in Fresno, it’s kind of close to home, but not too far away.
“It close enough to home where I can go home if I wanted to do laundry or something,” Garcia said. “It’s far enough to where I don’t have to come home if I don’t want to. Most of the races will be local or in Los Angeles so my parents will be able to watch me compete collegiately. It’s close, but it’s far.”
Garcia not only impressed Winter with his times on the course, but also how he handles himself off the court.
“Seth is kind of the whole package,” Winter said. “He’s an amazing academic kid with super strong academic success and goals moving forward. His character, integrity and work ethic speaks for itself. He’s a team leader. He’s really bought into and owned the leadership role at Madera South. He’s moved from a non-scorer to a No. 1 spot. I’m so impressed with the way the guys have responded to him because he’s so respected by his peers.”
Garcia took time to reflect how he worked from a junior varsity runner as a sophomore to becoming one of the top runners in the Central Section.
“I have been thinking what have I done for the team and what have they learned from me as the team builds,” he said. “I started my sophomore year midway through the season and now I’m one of the top runners in the valley. It’s just crazy. I was a volleyball player and I had to make a choice to do something else. Now, I’m going to college. Hopefully, to the freshmen, to any athlete, if you can find what you want to do and apply yourself, you can do great things.”
“His marks speak for themselves,” Winter said. “The jump he made in one year is not normal. It shows consistent work. He was able to stack two years on top of each other and in the third year, it kicked in and he turned the corner. It just happened. I don’t think he even thought it would happen.”
Garcia said he will look forward to some of the major cross country meets where he will be able to see a number of former teammates.
“I was talking to one of the guys that graduated last year at one of the meets and they said a bunch of them met up after the meet,” he said. “They all got together and hung out for a while. I will still get to see them. It will be good to see them in a different uniform. It will be like in high school, but they are on different teams.”
Garcia didn’t feel any pressure holding the No. 1 spot on the team all year. He said his only pressure was on last weeks Central Section championships where Madera South finished in fourth place, the first time in school history it wasn’t section championship and won’t be in the state meet as a team.
“The only pressure I felt was the valley meet,” he said. “It was the pressure that built up that meet. We didn’t perform the way we could perform. We have four guys that haven’t run the varsity level before. I know they were scared and I was scared for them. I’m super proud of them. This is our rebuilding year. Next year, they will be a crazy good team. We’re only losing three guys. The next class will know what’s going to happen.”
In the end, Garcia is happy to be donning the navy blue and orange of Fresno Pacific University. However, the ones most happy are his parents.
“Their biggest fears was with me going too far away,” Garcia said. “They want to keep their grasp on me a little bit. It’s a great relief to sign. That sort of pressure about having to worry about college is gone. I have to finish high school, now.”