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Community Champion: Eastwood grad wins gold (twice) at U20 Pan American Games

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- George Garcia's journey to gold didn't start on Eastwood's track, instead it began in Trooper gym.

"There's no way you could have wrote this story," Garcia said.

The now 19-year-old first started playing basketball at age four. He was on the Troopers varsity team for three years, even helping them with their run to the Sweet 16 in 2020.

Garcia always had ambitions of playing basketball at the next level. That's why he started running track in his junior year.

"We always try to send our basketball players after basketball season and we feel it helps them out with their athletic ability," head coach of Eastwood boys basketball, Peter Morales said.

"I wanted to join for fun just to get quicker and stronger," Garcia said. "I had no real intent of actually competing in the sport." 

Garcia ran in three meets his junior year. In his senior year, without knowing it, he found his future.

"They were short one person so they were like let's just throw George in there," Garcia said.

The former Trooper posted a time of roughly 50 seconds in his first ever 400m relay.

"They were like well you did that with no idea what you were doing so let's try it again next week," Garcia said.

"It was like striking gold," head coach of Eastwood track and field, Michael McLain said.

Little did they know, literal gold medals were on the way. Coach McLain and Garcia got his time down to a 48.9 in high school but Garcia was still set on spending his future on the court.

He didn't choose to pursue track at the next level until two weeks before he graduated.

"It's the best thing I've ever done in my life," Garcia said. "It's definitely one of the toughest decisions I've ever made, just cutting out basketball but I don't regret anything and I'm glad I took the path I took." 

That path saw Garcia spend his freshman year of college at Lubbock Christian University. There he qualified for both the NCAA Division 2 Indoor and Outdoor Nationals and became a 2-time All-American in Division 2 for the 400 and 400 relay.

His times at nationals earned him a spot on Team USA for the Under 20 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico.

"I know athletes who have been doing this their whole lives and dreaming of this their whole lives and I can't even say I've been dreaming of this my whole life, maybe in basketball but I've never dreamt of doing this for track," Garcia said.

The Eastwood grad had a split of 45.6 at the games which is a 3.3 second improvement from his best time as a Trooper.

"I'm not going to say I've never seen that before," McLain said. "I'm sure it's happened but that's just an advertisement for coaches at the high school level and even parents who tend to put their kids in one sport and they end up missing out on an even bigger opportunity."

"It's crazy how it all worked out," Garcia said.

The now 2x under 20 international gold medalist told ABC-7 he wouldn't be where he is if it weren't for his coaches at Eastwood.

Garcia is now set for a well deserved couple of weeks off before he gets right back into training. His goals for this season are to just keep learning the sport and working hard. He hopes in the future he will get to represent the United States again.

Article Topic Follows: Sports Features

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Rachel Phillips

Rachel Phillips is the weekend sports anchor and reporter


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