Small in stature, huge in heart
A commitment to excelling in all that they do has become a trademark characteristic of the children of Roseville’s Pat and Cindy Garcia.
That drive to succeed carried 14-year-old Karlie Garcia to a fourth-place finish at the high school state cross country meet last week in Fresno. At 4-foot-9 and 69 pounds, Karlie does not necessarily have the look of an elite athlete, but what she lacks in stature she more than makes up for in determination.
“The Garcia family is not a very tall group of people,” said Karlie’s older sister Karissa, an all-league soccer and basketball player at Oakmont before moving to her current location as a sophomore soccer player at Pepperdine. “I have always been told never to get discouraged by lack of size, for what we lack in size, we make up for in heart. Having heart, sheer motivation and perseverance are intangible and invaluable qualities to possess, especially as an athlete. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach heart.”
Those attributes are strong in all of the Garcia’s, something Karissa said they learned at home.
“I think my parents instilled an attitude in us that you will get what you deserve, and that you have to work for what you want,” Karissa said. “Things don’t just come to you, you have to make your own luck happen.”
The state finals tested Karlie’s resolve, as she was called upon to execute an aggressive race strategy against a strong group of older, more experienced runners. After finishing second to Granite Bay’s Brooke Holt at the Sierra Foothill League championships, the Oakmont freshman won the Sac-Joaquin Section meet by more than a minute.
“I knew I had a chance for the section title when I placed second at the SFL league finals,” Karlie said. “I was hoping to finish in the top 10 in the state meet and anything better was an added bonus.”
“I don't know what Karlie thought she was capable of doing going into the race, but I told her to race to win,” said Oakmont coach Ryan Nugent. “Races like Karlie's performance on Saturday do not happen when you race for a top 20 or even top 10 finish. She had to go for it, and she did.”
The pace of the contest was extremely fast, but Karlie was prepared, perhaps in large part due to the hard work that began at home. For Karlie and Karissa Garcia, everything is a competition.
“Even if we aren’t competing, we are competing,” Karissa said. “Karlie and I will play cards or sometimes play soccer to pug goals. But even if it’s just for fun, we are still competitive. It’s just in our nature.”
The two sisters are the second and third of three girls in the Garcia family. Their older sister, Kaila, was a cheerleader at Oakmont and is currently studying Theater at Saddleback College in Southern California. All three are highly successful, but the competitive streak is most prominent in the younger two siblings.
“Karlie and Karissa are more competitive then Kaila,” Cindy said. “A leisurely walk can turn into a race for Karlie and Karissa, while Kaila will stay back and enjoy the moment.”
The hard work has proven valuable to both sisters, as they trained together the last two summers.
“For the last two years, Karlie has been doing my Pepperdine summer packet running with me along with her own cross country running in the summer,” Karissa said. “It is good for her because I push her on the short distance sprints and she pushes me on the long distance parts.”
Those workouts were quite intense as Karissa worked to earn her place on the pitch for her college team.
“After her first season, I told her it was going to be very difficult for her to play here unless she made certain improvements in very specific areas,” said Pepperdine head coach Tim Ward. “She went home over the summer, worked her tail off and came back much improved in the areas we identified and as a result she started eight games for us last year.”
Karissa’s work seems to have paid major dividends for her sister as well.
The most amazing thing about both girls is that their success is not limited to athletics. Karissa was the valedictorian of the Oakmont class of 2008, and has continued her success in the classroom at the college level. Karlie is also a 4.0 student at Oakmont.
The ability to work hard and pay attention to details is one of the greatest attributes of the Garcia sisters. They thrive on the challenge of getting things right.
“My favorite subject in school is math,” Karlie said, “because there is only one right answer.”
The way Karlie and Karissa go about their business reveals a lot about their upbringing and the value of perseverance and staying the course. Their coaches have nothing but praise for these talented young sisters.
“I have no idea how far Karlie can go, but I believe she hasn't come close to reaching her potential,” Nugent said. “That's frightening to say, considering the season she has had, but I know she can get better. Her ability is without question. Her work ethic is impeccable. She is receptive to coaching and very modest despite her success.”
“Karissa’s sophomore success is amazing considering that I really didn’t think she would play,” Ward said. “I love this kid. Her character and her heart are everything a coach could ask for. She’s turning into one of my all-time favorite Waves.”
Pepperdine women’s soccer
By the numbers: 55 goals, 34 assists as a four-year varsity starter at Oakmont
Why soccer: "The competitive environment, the emphasis on teamwork and the thrill of scoring a goal or helping to create goal-scoring opportunities."
Favorite movie: Tristan and Isolde
Summer plans: Off to Italy. Working on 10 units towards her plan to graduate with a Master’s degree after four years at Pepperdine.
Oakmont cross country
By the numbers: Section champion and fourth place at the state cross country meet
Why cross country: “The family of the team and how we are all there for the same passion.”
Favorite movie: The Notebook
High school sports: “My original plan was to play soccer, basketball, track and cross country, however when cross country started I realized that running is my passion.”