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Small town, small college - Gillette News Record: College

Small town, small college

Freshman runner adapts to college, training alongside teammates

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Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:00 am

Running competitively at the college level hasn't been a huge leap of faith for Alejandro Garcia, who has emerged from a small Wyoming town to make a big impact at Gillette College.

His father, Antonio Garcia, instilled in him the hard-working values he learned over the years as a railroader.

His mother, Maria, used to teach Spanish at Pine Bluffs Junior and Senior High School.

For Alejandro Garcia, a freshman, the jump from a small town to a small college isn't as difficult as you might imagine.

Now he's learning how to be a solid contributor on a cross country team looking to do big things at the national level.

"A lot of people don't see Gillette as a big city, but I do because of the little town I come from," Garcia said with a smile.

He grew up in Pine Bluffs, a southern Wyoming town of 1,129 people. His school included 120 high school and junior high students.

"My graduating class was 29 kids," he said, showing the smile his teammates have come to know.

He was the Class 2A state cross country champion a senior. Then he blew onto the Pronghorn distance running scene with the fourth fastest time trial in Gillette College history. He has been making noise this season ever since.

"Actually I think our small school kids seem to adjust faster," Pronghorns coach Chris Kozlowski said. "Alejandro ran against the 4A kids all the time in cross country. He actually had some 4A training running with (Cheyenne) Central indoors.

"So the transition was more moving on rather than moving up. We're a small school too."

Garcia is the Pronghorns' second man. He finished 20th in 21 minutes, 47.2 at the All-American Invite at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in his first college race.

He also was 90th overall and 34th among non-Division I runners at the 27th Annual Rocky Mountain Shootout in Boulder, Colo.

"It's amazing. He was even competing with the big dogs in high school, even though he was from a small town," said teammate Mike Nelson, who ran with Garcia on the Cheyenne Central indoor track team. "I was still trying to catch up to him my junior year."

Garcia won the Class 2A's 3200-meter title in state track a year ago, too.

The biggest change, he said, is having teammates to train with and someone to push him.

"Back in Pine, it was just me and someone else that wasn't into running. I was out there running miles every day," he said. "Now, I not only have people to run with, but people to push me.

"I kind of like it because I push them and they push me and we all get better."

He ran against Gabe Adams (Laramie), Matt Jackson (Cheyenne East), Bryce Parmely (Casper Natrona) and Nelson throughout his high school career. Now they are all freshmen teammates looking to put Gillette College on the map.

"I'm very team based. I know Mike and what he's capable of. I know he'll push me," Garcia said. "I saw the other guys a lot indoors.

"Now we're all freshmen. I love being part of a team that pushes each other to meet our goals."

Garcia is learning to trust his training and his coaching. In his first two college races, he's gone out fairly conservative with the idea of running negative splits to be able to run his fastest mile in the end.

So far he's done a pretty good job of that.

He will have another opportunity when the Pronghorns race against Montana State University-Billings and Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont., on Saturday.

"I've always had troubles pacing myself," said Garcia, who is taking general studies and may one day become an engineer. "It's just like homework, I just need to study every day."

Physically fit is one thing, being mentally prepared is another.

"A lot of it has to do with your mentality, because you have to control yourself," he said. "Most people think if you go out too slow, you're not going to be able to catch them in the end.

"But in all reality, it saves energy for the finish. If you wait and be patient, you'll eventually catch them."

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