Nov. 21, 2020

By Greg Selber

If you happen to get the answering machine when calling Dianett “Didi” Garcia, it will tell you that you’ve caught her at a busy time: she’s either napping, fishing, or working out. Suffice to say that lately, the Econ junior runner has been laser-focusing on the third option. 

As the city’s lone cross country to qualify for the rare air of the state meet, Garcia has been preparing for the chance of a lifetime. After a district title as an individual and then a strong No. 7 finish at regionals, the hope of the East Side will fire out against the state’s 6A best up in Austin Tuesday.

A weekend before her prime moment in the big time, Garcia took a moment to reflect on the path that got her to this juncture.

“The weather was a little challenging, the air was thinner, but I really like the cold,” said Garcia of her championship run at Ebony Hills. “I figured I would have competition to run with but the last mile I was basically by myself. It felt good to finish first, and also to help my team win the title.”

The district team title was the second in a row for the Lady Jags, and the Jag boys also took home first. Next was regionals in Corpus, where Garcia was matched against a friend and foe.

“Honestly I have always looked to her, and we have become friends,” said Garcia of the magical Amity Ebarb of Weslaco, one of the finest runners in South Texas. “I decided to try and stay with her, because she is so good. When I passed her, I knew she would be gunning for me, like I was gunning for her.”

The colorful Econ runner, who also stands out for the school’s track team in middle distances, was able to come home ahead of the formidable Ebarb, but there was a time not too long ago when cross country was more of a hassle than anything else. 

“I got into it last year to try and build endurance but all I was saying then was how much I hated,” laughed Garcia, who is clever and fun-loving as well as being a running star in the making. “I wanted to quit because I didn’t want to get up early. Now, after I stuck with it, I think I like cross country as much as track. I like the team aspect, because track is more individual in a way. You’re all running the same race in cross country.”

Econ coach Brenda Lozano is the one who provided Garcia with the spark to do cross country, and do it well.

“I know I wouldn’t be here, doing this, if it hadn’t been for her,” Garcia insisted. “I think she’s the best, what a motivator! She has always pushed all of us to do better, she has taught me a lot. She’s always telling us stories about her college days, she was All-American, so we listen for sure.”

There have been other influences in her life. Didi’s father Robert Garcia is the school’s long-time soccer coach and an assistant in cross country. He’s been as big a motivational force for her as Lozano, but in a different way.

“He’s helped a lot, first by not pushing me into things,” she explained. “And he actually suggested that I not play soccer, even though I kinda wanted to try it. He told me I would have a better chance of success in track. He always has jokes for me, and words of wisdom, he’s always been driving me places to exercise. No pressure from him, he always says, ‘If you like it, you like it, then do it.’ My parents have been so supportive, I love that.”

Historically, participation in athletics has generally correlated well with achievement in the classroom, and as she prepares for the state meet, Garcia can relate to the research.

“When I first started high school I was like school, eh, I was into having fun, the high school experience, friends,” she recalled. “But I have become way more serious in grades, they really matter to me, because I want to have good grades; that will help me in getting a chance to run in college. As I have started to get more serious, I’ve been looking into various careers. I think I might like to get a degree in physical therapy, so I can stay close to sports.”

That is the future and it sounds pretty promising. The present, however, is now, and Garcia is intent on going up to Austin with a plan.

“I want to try and find a girl or two to stay with, during the race,” she outlined. “And my overall goal is to break 19 minutes. Doing that would be great, and I think it would really look good on my record.”

In sum, don’t try to call Didi Garcia the next few days. She’s going to be busy – not fishing or napping, but competing against the top runners in the state, a group she now belongs to. And the whole Lady Jag athletic family will be pacing right along with her, at least in spirit.


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