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Football/Cross Country: Legging it out – Cross country runner, kicker gears for weekend

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, October 18, 2017
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Manny Garcia’s legs are preparing for a big few days.

The Boyd junior will handle the place kicking and punting duties for the Yellowjackets Friday against Ponder in a crucial District 4-3A Division I contest. Three days later, he will be on the Mae Simmons Park course in Lubbock to run a 5K in the Region I championships and try to help the Yellowjackets cross country team to a state berth.

“I’m very excited. I’m mostly looking forward to regionals and getting a chance to travel,” Garcia said.

Garcia has been a mainstay on the Boyd cross country team since his freshman year, advancing to regionals in his first two high school years. This year, he’s turned in the best times of his career. He ran a 17:46 at the Reunion Run Sept. 30 and followed it up with a 17:35 at last week’s 8-3A championships to finish fourth for the league champions.

“I’ve been trying to relax more and not go out too fast where I burn out,” Garcia said. “I want to go at a good pace and control my breathing.”

Boyd coach Oscar Hernandez has been impressed with Garcia’s improvement throughout the year.

“He’s ran really well,” said Boyd coach Oscar Hernandez. “It’s been tough on him [balancing football and cross country].”

Garcia missed the Yellowjackets’ trip to Lubbock Sept. 23 with shin splints. Boyd took second at the meet against many of the top 3A teams in the region.

“I’m hoping he’s our secret weapon,” Hernandez said. “We’re better with him.”

Running for Boyd, Garcia followed in the big footsteps of his brother, Marco Martinez, who qualified for state as a senior in 2014.

Garcia and his Boyd teammates want to equal Martinez’ feat from three years ago but send the entire squad.

DOUBLE DUTY – Manny Garcia kicks for the football team and runs on the cross country squad at Boyd. He will kick at Ponder Friday and run in the regionI championships Monday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“We want it pretty bad,” Garcia said. “We knew we had a good team last year and missed it. We want it more this year.”

At the start of the football season, Garcia recognized that the Yellowjackets were in need of a place kicker with the graduation of Spencer Pellegrini. A former soccer player, Garcia decided to give it a try though he hadn’t played football in several years.

“I knew their other kicker left, so I decided to give it a try and see if I could help out,” Garcia said.

To not take away from his cross country workouts, Boyd football coach Brandon Hopkins struck a deal with Garcia for him to just come out and kick after school.

“We needed a kicker. He came out a little later than everyone else,” Hopkins said. “He just kicks. He comes out and works on his craft.”

This season, Garcia has hit 10 of his 15 point-after attempts. He’s yet to try a field goal.

“He does have good range. He can hit from 40 yards,” Hopkins said. “If we needed a big field goal, I trust him to hit it.”

Garcia said his longest field goal in practice is 43 yards.

He wouldn’t mind if the game Friday against Ponder came down to one of his kicks. A game-winning field goal and state berth in cross country, Garcia admits would make for a pretty good weekend.

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