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HIGH SCHOOL CROSS COUNTRY: Garcia looks for more success at state - Odessa American: Sports

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HIGH SCHOOL CROSS COUNTRY: Garcia looks for more success at state

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Posted: Friday, November 2, 2018 8:38 pm

Permian cross country runner Joshua Garcia is running towards new heights.

After winning the District 2-6A meet nearly a month ago in Amarillo, the junior followed that up with a personal-best time of 15:23 at the Region 1-6A meet on at Mae Simmons Park October 22 in Lubbock.

That time was good enough to qualify Garcia for the Class 6A UIL Cross Country State Championships for the first time. He will run on 9:10 a.m. today at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

“I’m really excited,” Garcia said. “All the hard work that I put in over the summer and sticking to it has really paid off.”

The top four teams and the top 10 individuals not already on those four teams qualified for the state championships.

Garcia finished 15th overall at the regional meet and was confident that he had punched his ticket to Round Rock after he finished the race.

“I had a feeling I was in the right position to make it,” he said. “I was with the top guys pretty much the whole race and ended up running my personal best time.”

He is the second Panthers runner to make it to Round Rock in the past two decades after Miah Nelson qualified as a senior in 2014.

The work needed to advance to the state meet is not lost on Permian coach Hilberto Ochoa, who worked with 2014 state qualifiers Bryce Hoppel and Ruben Guerra during his time at Midland High.

“It’s good for Permian and it’s good for Josh,” Ochoa said. “It’s hard to accomplish what he has and I feel like the kids who qualify from this area have a good chance of winning the championship.”

“Everything is awesome about it,” Garcia said.

It’s a moment that also wasn’t lost on his teammates and the school.

“My teammates were all excited,” Garcia said after finishing the regional meet. “A couple of my best friends bought state qualifier t-shirts and it was a really cool moment that I’ll never forget.”

“The school has been really supportive,” Ochoa said. “Everyone has been embracing this and I’m glad that Josh has been able to get that recognition.”

Qualifying for the state tournament has been part of an impressive stretch of running for Garcia from the end of track season last spring.

If there is that one breakthrough moment, his coach points to his finish at the area track meet in El Paso.

“Every athlete has a moment where you remember to take that step forward and you’re not afraid to compete,” Ochoa said. “After finishing well at the area meet, I think that helped him spring forward into cross country season.”

The results have shown exactly that, as Garcia had won two races and finished fourth in two others prior to the regional meet. That growth is where he says he has seen the biggest improvement.

“You just have to be patient,” he said. “Everything is just all coming together.”

He hopes to have it come together for one last race on the season against the best runners across the Lone Star State. But as he has done all season, he sets a high bar on what he wants to accomplish.

“My expectations are pretty high for this race just as they are for any other race,” Garcia said. “I just want to finish with the top group and finish in the top 15, maybe the Top 10.”

As for Ochoa, he also sees that goal as something achievable and is looking forward to watching what Garcia can do on a new course.

“I want him to get that experience and it doesn’t get better than running against the best in the state,” he said. “Josh is one of those runners that continues to surprise people and I think he’ll do really well come Saturday.”

>>Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas

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