Cross Country: Nearing finish line – Bridgeport seniors approach last meets of career

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, September 30, 2017
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Leaving a Legacy

LEAVING A LEGACY – Bridgeport seniors Nathanael Phillips, Manuel Garcia, Salvador Garcia and Eric Aguilar have made three straight regional appearances. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

When the four freshmen took the course in the fall of 2014 together, the Bridgeport Bulls cross country program hadn’t even fielded a varsity squad for the district meet the year before.

Many miles, three regional trips and multiple state appearances for three of the quartet later, Bridgeport seniors Salvador and Manuel Garcia, Eric Aguilar and Nathanael Phillips look to cap their legacy as the championship portion of the season nears.

The quartet will run their final tune-up with the rest of the Bulls squad at the Reunion Run in Decatur Saturday morning. It will be the same course they run Oct. 11 in 9-4A championships where they will try to earn a fourth regional appearance.

“We’ve been blessed for the opportunity,” said Eric Aguilar, who has made it to the state meet the past two years. Last year, he finished 40th in 4A.

The Garcias and Phillips began running together in middle school and were joined by Aguilar in high school.

When they entered high school, they quickly became the backbone to get the program back on its feet.

“Our freshman year, we were just trying to make a varsity team,” Manuel Garcia recalled.

Their freshman year, they finished third at the district meet to advance to regionals.

“We were surprised to make it to regionals,” Phillips said.

As sophomores, the Bulls returned to regionals and finished fifth. Aguilar and the Garcias qualified for state. Last year, they were sixth at regionals sending the trio back to state.

Their main goal this year is a team spot at state.

“We want to go to state again, but as a team,” Manuel Garcia said.

Phillips added: “I hope to have that experience for my senior year.”

Through the past four years, it’s been the quartet’s close bonds that’s keep them on course.

“We see each other as more than friends or teammates,” said Salvador Garcia. “We’re a family.”

The Garcia brothers admit there is a little competition between them, but it’s secondary to the clock and trying to run their fastest times.

“We’re mainly competitive with ourselves,” Manuel Garcia said. “Each of us are pushing ourselves.”

With possibly only four races remaining, they are wanting to make the most of them. Assuring themselves a chance to run together again will be their motivation through district and regionals.

“We don’t want it to end. We want to get going,” said Manuel Garcia.

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