By JENELYN RUSSO     9/27/2015

With a background in soccer, Erick Garcia admits he entered Servite High School mistakenly thinking cross-country might help him with his sprinting. But after running for a season, Garcia discovered that he actually excelled as a distance runner.

“My coach and I found out I have a talent in [distance running] and I pursued it,” says the 17-year-old senior. “Now I’m fully committed to it.”

ARVE Error: need id and provider

As co-captain for the Friars, Garcia recognizes the importance of both leading his teammates in the present and leaving a legacy for their future.

“It keeps me humble,” says Garcia of being a captain, “and it makes me realize that in order for the younger guys to be successful later in their careers, it has to start with me. I have to set the example for them.”

Servite’s head cross-country coach, Richard Gibbs, echoes Garcia’s efforts when it comes to leadership.

“Erick leads by example and his work ethic is exemplary,” says Gibbs. “He reminds the younger guys about their responsibilities to the team, which is why he is the ideal team captain. He is a calm, composed individual and approaches his races in the same manner. This determination shows through, and everyone respects him for this.”

One of the challenges Garcia sees for himself is the increased popularity of cross-country and how that has changed the landscape of the sport.

“It’s becoming more popular,” says Garcia. “What was considered fast then is considered slow now. The physicality and the intensity of the sport have increased a lot.”

In his final year with the Friars, Garcia has his eye on leading his team to a Trinity League title, along with an extended CIF Championship run. On the personal side, Garcia would like to close out his senior season with an appearance at the State Championships. Regardless of how he finishes the race, it’s the journey he has run with his teammates that will remain his most special memory.

“You tend to bond with the kids that you’re running with. It’s a lot of pain that you go through, running 50 to 60 miles a week,” says Garcia. “At Servite, we emphasize brotherhood and it builds even more on that in cross-country. We’ve created a very deep bond.”

Off the track, Garcia is involved in Campus Ministry at Servite, as well as Habitat for Humanity and the Investment Club. The Corona resident hopes to continue to compete as a collegiate runner while pursuing a degree in finance.

With the support of his parents, his coach and his faith, Garcia is taking his unexpected time as a distance runner to heart, learning all the sport can teach.

“It’s taught me how to be humble and to be very patient,” says Garcia. “No matter what you do, you have to work hard for it.”