In less than two years on the CCS running scene, Evergreen Valley sophomore Samantha Garcia has achieved a great deal. She qualified for the cross country state meet in 2008 with a ninth place finish at the CCS championships. During track season, Garcia broke out with a 11:14.32 PR in the 3200m, good enough for the tenth best time in the section in 2009, in addition to being BVAL champion and a CCS finalist in the eight lap event. So far this cross country season, she has proved herself as one of the best in the CCS, with a third place finish at both the Earlybird and Artichoke Invitationals. Garcia recently broke the Evergreen Valley school record at their home course, Montgomery Hill, with a time of 18:26 over 2.74 miles.
The following interview was conducted by Evergreen Valley alum Kevin Liao.
- You had a lot of success while running on the middle school level. Talk about those achievements and how they influenced you heading into high school.
In middle school, I won county sectionals in the seventh grade. In eighth grade I almost won again, but came in second by inches, and learned an important lesson (like not looking behind you near the finish). I gained confidence that I was a very competitive runner and if I continued to improve could also compete at the high school level.
- What other sports have you played other than cross country and track?
I’ve participated in the following sports: swimming, basketball, and soccer. I have been on a Cabana league swim team since I was six years old, which is a lot of fun. I played basketball both years in Jr. High, but don’t play anymore. I love soccer the best but may have to stop playing because possible injuries would not allow me to run.
- You had a strong cross country season last year, but made a big jump during last year’s track season and continuing that this year. What do you attribute this to?
Having never participated in track, I was surprised how well I did. I discovered that I liked track. I enjoy the competition. The combination of great coaching and well designed workouts has made me a better runner. Along with the more experienced senior runners on the team who have given me tips and support throughout cross country and track.
- Tell us a little about your coaches and what has they have done for you to become a person and runner.
My soccer coach, Terry, encouraged me to pursue my running career. She offered words of wisdom, because she too was a runner in high school. Coach Jim Sena, my cross country coach, is an amazing coach. He knows what he is talking about. Having been a CCS Cross Country Champion, he brings experience and he shares this with his runners. (Interviewer’s note: Sena was CCS small schools champion in 1970 while running for James Lick) His style of coaching is perfect for me. He and I have a great relationship. I have lots of respect for coach Sena. Also in track it is obvious that the workouts Coach Jonathan Hubbs designed helped me be successful.
- Evergreen Valley has a strong girls squad this season. But with Gilroy, Carlmont, and now Gunn in Division I, what do you think of your team’s chances to qualify to the state meet?
I think we have a great chance to qualify for the state meet. We have our returning runners who are talented and have worked out strong during the summer. We have some new runners who if they continue to improve, put us in good shape to possibly win CCS. We just all hope everybody stays healthy to the end.
- Do you have a favorite run? Favorite workout? Favorite course? Favorite competitor(s)?
I enjoy running up Chaboya Road and Higuera Road, in the east foothills of San Jose. They are both challenging hills, and the view from the top is spectacular. Favorite workout? I don’t like fartleks, but I enjoy long runs, hills, and track workouts. In the league, my favorite competitors are the Barnett sisters from Leland. Each race with them was always interesting. I’m always just trying to improve and beat somebody who has beaten me before. At Earlybird this year, I thought I could give Allison Sturges [of Mountain View] some competition, but [Valley Christian’s] Morgan Lira improved five minutes from last year and beat me. At the Half Moon Bay invitational, I was hoping to keep up with Jessie Peterson, but instead got beaten by Carlmont freshman Corin Soleberg. So now I have more competitors I want to beat.
- Many people consider your big breakthrough race to be your win in the 3200m at BVAL track finals last season. Talk about how that race played out for you and the confidence it helped you build for the future.
The morning of the BVAL league finals, I woke up knowing I had to run against Stephanie Barnett, the person I had admired since cross country season. My goal for that evening was to beat her. Throughout the entire race I stayed behind Stephanie, drafting off of her. She paced, I ran. With the last 300 meters to go I knew I had to take off or I would not win the race. On the back stretch, when I passed her I was freaking out because there was no one in front of me and I had just passed Stephanie Barnett. My body and breathing felt great, and my legs had a super fast turn over. Coming into the final stretch I had the crowd cheering for me, (probably 3/4th of the crowd was my relatives) and I sprinted all the way to the finish. When Coach Hubbs told me the time, I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I realized that since I was able to beat a high caliber runner such as Stephanie Barnett, and improved my time (11:14) that I would be able to compete at a higher level than I had been competing. At the end of the race, I was so excited about winning the race and my personal record, but didn’t realize until a while later that I was BVAL champ. Winning BVAL as a team in cross country in 2008 was exciting, so winning an individual championship as a freshman is definitely a highlight in my life.
- As a former teammate of yours, I’ve seen how active your parents have been in being at all of your athletic events and cheering you on. How much of an impact have they had in you being the athlete you are?
With my parents and often relatives attending my events, they give me words of wisdom and support me 100%. They always tell me to do my best and their goal for me is to simply finish the race. It is nice to have them there on good days and most definitely on bad days. I feel lucky to have them there. It helps that they grew up with cross country and understand the commitment and sacrifice that runners make every day. I am also spoiled by my big brother, Spike, he always has a Gatorade waiting for me at the end of each race. I don’t even hold the bottle, he pours it straight into my mouth.
- Although you’re just a sophomore, what thoughts do you have about running in college? Is this a sport that you would like to continue being a part of in the future?
At this point in time, I don’t know where I would like to go to college, it seems so far away. It may be fun to run in college, especially if it gives me an opportunity to go to a college that I would like to attend (when I figure that out).
Thanks for allowing Cross Country Express to interview you. Best of luck in your future running endeavors!