Nearly two months ago, Edison High cross-country coach Brian Brierly had a good feeling about his boys’ team.
Chargers freshman Wylie Cleugh had announced himself as a possible up-and-comer, winning his Division 2 grade-level race in the Laguna Hills Invitational on Sept. 14.
That same day, Brierly spoke with high regard about a junior class that included Jeff Ritter, Reyce Connell and Christopher Chan.
One person that the Chargers coach had failed to mention then was August Garcia, a senior who would be running for the varsity team for the first time in his career.
Garcia did not profile as the runner that might one day make the difference in his team’s biggest race of the season. And yet, it was this unlikely candidate that was the source of his coach experiencing unbridled joy.
After missing the CIF Southern Section postseason meets in their entirety last season, Edison edged Newport Harbor 49-52 for second place and an automatic CIF bid in the Surf League finals at Central Park in Huntington Beach.
“At the starting line, honestly, we knew that we had put in all the effort and work that we needed,” Garcia said. “It was at that point that we just needed to put it all on the table, just do our absolute best that we could, so that we could end our season the best way that we wanted to, without any regrets.
“Seeing everyone proud of what we’ve accomplished and what we could do this season, it just really gives a lot of joy, not only to my heart, but to everyone else’s on the team.”
The Chargers were led by none other than Garcia, who shattered his own personal-best three-mile time by 16 seconds. He placed fourth among the league’s runners with a time of 15 minutes 53.1 seconds.
“We don’t get there without August Garcia,” Brierly said of moving on to the postseason. “What a huge breakthrough race.”
Running had always been a part of Garcia’s family life. His father, Fred, is a legacy runner of the San Diego Marathon, meaning he has completed the race in all 22 years of the event. The San Diego Marathon honored 68 legacy runners this year.
His mother, Theresa, runs long-distance events, too. Garcia also has a twin sister, Crystal, who runs for Edison.
At the end of his freshman year, Garcia had a personal record of 20:15.0, which he had posted on an ideal course for fast times in the Great Cow Run at Don Knabe Community Regional Park in Cerritos.
This summer, Garcia sensed that an opportunity was coming to be a contributor for the Chargers.
“There was a difference in the intensity that he brought every day,” Brierly said. “He just kind of kept moving up and moving up. The next thing you know, guys are watching him going, ‘Wow, he’s doing it. We should be doing it.’
“They really fed off each other. One guy would see it, and then another guy would respond to it, and they really sort of just keep telling each other, ‘We can do better.’”
Watching his own teammates fight through health conditions such as asthma and bronchitis also inspired Garcia to put forth his best effort for his swan song with the Chargers.
“I’ve really become more influenced by my teammates because of all of the things that they have gone through and that they have to deal with,” Garcia said. “It just really kind of changed the way I think, and how they can be so strong as to run this fast and be some of our fastest runners, running with these kind of hampers on what they can do.”
Garcia is apt to engage in conversation on a wide array of topics. He mentioned a recent interest he has taken in Japanese architecture, as well as an appetite for history.
When he is not flexing his mental muscle, Garcia also is up to speed on many of the pressing issues in popular culture. For the record, he believes that pineapples do belong on pizza.
Asked about a possible career path, Garcia said he could see himself doing something in a maritime industry. His uncle, Marcus Siegel, is a pilot boat operator, transporting captains to and from larger ships.
One might say Garcia safely ferried the Edison boys’ cross-country team through the treacherous waters of league finals and into the CIF postseason.
“It’s the ultimate story of not the guy who has the most talent, but the guy who is definitely willing to work harder than anybody,” Brierly said. “The choice that he made after last cross-country season, saying, ‘I’m going to be that guy that is going to…step up.’”
Born: June 6, 2002
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 6 feet 1
Weight: 150 pounds
Coach: Brian Brierly
Favorite food: Pizza topped with pepperoni and sausage
Favorite movie: “Dunkirk”
Favorite athletic moment: Edison beat out Newport Harbor 49-52 for second place in the Surf League finals on Nov. 2 at Central Park in Huntington Beach, qualifying the Chargers for the CIF Southern Section Division 2 preliminaries.
Week in review: In his first and only season as a member of the Edison varsity team, Garcia led the Chargers in the Surf League finals by placing fourth with a time of 15:53.1. He set a new personal record by 16 seconds in the process.
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