When it comes to running, Lehman High freshman Esteban Garza doesn’t have to look far for advice.
His father, who was a state-level cross country athlete at Del Valle High years ago, knows what it takes to succeed.
So when Garza began searching for what sport fit him best in middle school, it didn’t take long for running to sprint to the top.
Three years later, Garza is starting to generate state-level buzz with only a handful of varsity level runs under his belt. His best 5,000-meter finish of 15:51.20 ranks as one of the top five times in Region IV, 6A. Garza currently holds the 37th best time among all runners in the state.
It’s all a humbling experience for Garza who now sets his sight on the upcoming district meet, with hopes of possibly reaching state.
“I feel honored because people recognize me and see me,” Garza said. “I’m a freshman and I’ve got many years to go and I’m doing good now.”
Garza said he chose long-distance running because it pushes athletes to find limits they didn’t know they had.
A big part in that decision was his father, who offered Garza advice and techniques that helped to improve his endurance and his times.
It was his father that also motivated him to enter into long distance events, rather than shorter sprints.
James Halatin, Lehman High head cross country coach, said Garza’s initial success showed the amount of work he had put in during his middle school years and over the summer. Halatin said Garza is part of a freshman class that was “pretty special,” at least from what feeder middle school coaches told him prior to the start of the year.
Having a parent who is supportive and is “all in for his kid” also helps to spur Garza’s growth in the sport.
“We knew they were going to be pretty special,” Halatin said. “I don’t think they knew or expected to do so well. It’s good to see that.”
Also helping Garza were many of the upperclassmen who also populate the Lobo cross country team. Working with those teammates has helped Garza excel on the course and improve his character.
They also provided him insight when going up against top-tier and more experienced competition.
“It’s definitely scary because there are older people, juniors and seniors, racing,” Garza said. “It’s the big boys. It’s the big leagues.”
But Halatin also believes Garza’s talents challenge many of his older runners as well. Younger runners are starting to gravitate toward Garza and his abilities.
“We have some older guys who can go and he pairs himself up with them and pushes himself,” Halatin said. “He is pushing them as they are pushing him.”
Garza and his teammates will now prepare for Saturday’s Hays CISD invitational meet at Lake Kyle, which is the second to last meet prior to district competition in Round Rock. He ultimately hopes to at least make it to regionals in Corpus Christi.
But Garza also envisions success on the track as well. He plans to run in the 1500-meter and 3200-meter runs this season.
“He’s a good kid and he’s excited about what he is doing. He’s not just going through the motions,” Halatin said.