Elco Garcia Jr. vividly remembers his father staying in shape for his next fight by doing something they now both love to do: run.
Elco Garcia Sr., a famed local boxer, introduced his son to the sport while he was training, and he thought it was a good way for his son to get into shape for basketball season, Garcia Jr.’s first love.
“He was happy for me when I started cross-country because he knew I’d get in shape for basketball,” Garcia Jr. said. “Basketball used to be my main sport, but now, I think he’s just honestly happy to see that I’m growing a lot and am becoming a better athlete in general.”
Garcia Sr., also known as “The Animal,” has compiled a 31-10-0 record as a super middleweight class fighter. Now, his son is starting to win a few bouts of his own on the cross-country course. Garcia Jr., who attends Ignacio High School but competes in cross-country for Bayfield, has won the last two meets for the Wolverines. He admitted that much of his competitive edge comes from his dad.
“I get a lot of my competitiveness from him being a boxer and all,” he said. “Just always being around him when he was training, he’d always run to stay in shape. That’s where I started running ... He gives me tips here and there, especially during my freshman year. Now, I’m more knowledgeable than him – I’m the one giving him running tips.”
Over the course of his four-year varsity career, his time has decreased dramatically. During his freshman year at the Lake County Cross-Country Invitational, he ran 21 minutes flat. This year, he ran 18:49 at the Lake County meet. Last week, Garcia Jr. set a personal record at the Delta-Sweitzer Lake Invitational by nearly 30 seconds, running 16:35.99.
Head coach Josh Walton said his growth over the past four years has been remarkable to witness firsthand.
“The amount he’s improved since his freshman year has been very noticeable this year,” Walton said. “We’ve seen small amounts from his sophomore and junior year, but I felt like we saw a big jump heading into this year. This year, having to train throughout the summer, he was able to compete at the Down Under Games in Australia and did very well there. With that also came him wanting to make sure he’d be successful over there. That’s propelled him for this season, absolutely.”
Garcia Jr., also the son of Naomi Russell, is currently the eighth-fastest runner in Colorado’s Class 3A and has the second-fastest time in Bayfield’s region ahead of the regional meet. While a strong work ethic and desire to win has been a big part of Garcia Jr.’s success, he said his biggest gains have been on the mental side of running, specifically through meditation.
“Last season, I lacked mental toughness, and this year, I’m much stronger,” Garcia Jr. said. “I take time out of my day when I wake up in the morning to meditate. Just even five minutes of concentrating on breathing really helps. I was always down on myself last year during the races, and so I started meditating after doing a bit of research. My times have changed so much, and have been trying to get under 17 minutes for the past three years, and now it’s finally here.”
With a number of strong teammates, including Zeb Shields, Jonas Nanaeto and Rylan Ross, the Wolverines aim to win the Class 3A Region 1 meet Oct. 18 in El Jebel, and Garcia hopes to land the knockout punch.
“There’s some pressure on me, but I’m excited to compete with those boys and see who the best runner is,” Garcia Jr. said. “To make state as a team, that’s been our goal since sophomore year. Being a senior leader now along with (Ross), we’re very vocal on what we want to accomplish as a team. Our whole team is coming together, and I’m hoping to make top three at regionals or even win it. I’d also love to get another huge PR and knock out even more time.”
Garcia Jr. and the Wolverines will have one more tune-up race in preparation for regionals, the Eric Wolff Invitational on Oct. 11 in Monte Vista.