alex with gold medal.jpg

Alex Garcia-Silver poses with his gold medal and the Colombia flag after winning the 3,000 meters in the 18-and-under South American Championships in September.

Marshfield junior Alex Garcia-Silver will race for the state cross country title Saturday at Lane Community College in Eugene.

Win or lose, he already has a huge title to his credit this fall, one with an international flavor.

Alex, who was born in Colombia and has dual citizenship in that country and the United States, won the South American 18-and-under title in the 3,000-meters for Columbia in September.

“It was a dream come true,” Alex said. “Maybe one day, if I am fast enough, I will try to compete in the Olympics for (Colombia). That’s my career goal in running, which would be a longshot, but it’s something I would love to do.”

Just running for Colombia has been a goal that developed over the past decade and became a reality in the past few years.

Alex was born in Colombia and was adopted by his parents when he was about 2 years old. His dad, Moisés García, also was born in Colombia.

From when he was young, Alex pondered competing for his birth country.

“Questions always arose, if I could be that soccer player, if I could be that runner, would I run for Colombia,” he said. “This race is something I have dreamed about since I was 10 or younger than that. Being from another country and being proud of that, being able to wear my country’s name on my chest is something my parents supported me and wanted me to have that connection.”

Alex said he is grateful for how much his parents, Moisés and Melinda, have done to help him along the way.

Alex’s family would travel to Colombia every two years or so to visit with his dad’s relatives, and the summer after his eighth-grade year, a newspaper writer in that country got him in touch with a club coach in Bogata, Mauricio Ladino. As it turned out, Ladino also is the country’s middle-distance Olympic coach.

“We were super lucky to be able to have him as the first guy I could work with,” Alex said. “He was just awesome, super supportive of the process.”

Alex ran with the club team in Colombia that summer and hoped to go back the following year, but that goal was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But at the end of his sophomore year earlier this year, he was able to go back to Colombia and train with the team for a few months “and get acclimated and see how far I could go in the system.”

“My main goal was to get into this race,” he said. “I trained as hard as I could up at elevation.”

He impressed the coaching staff enough that he was sent to a qualifying race to get into the Colombian national meet for the Under 18 age group.

“I ran my guts out, and I got second at the nationals,” Alex said.

He finished just behind the winner, and since both were ranked in the top three for all of South America, the country decided to send both to compete in the South American Championships — Alex said normally it would send just one entrant.

“They thought maybe Colombia could go 1-2 at the international games,” he said.

He added that Ladino supported that concept.

“The coach put in a good word for me because he was really proud of the work I did in that race,” Alex said. “He didn’t have to do that, so I was super blessed.”

Alex had returned to Coos Bay to start school and train with Marshfield’s cross country team, but made the 30-hour trip to Encarnación, Paraguay, for the South American Championships.

The actual race was contested in hot, humid conditions.

“I kind of just sat in the back (of the pack) waiting,” Alex said. “I went through the mile in 4:45, or something like that, in sixth place.

“My main goal was to make sure with one lap to go, I was in shape to strike and use that speed I had been working on.”

Alex found a few openings to get past other runners.

“With 500 meters to go I had made my way up and I was in second place,” he said, adding that he blazed through the last lap in 61 seconds.

His winning time was a personal best, 8 minutes, 41.08 seconds. The runner-up ran 8:42.99.

“It could have been anybody’s race,” Alex said. “I was able to find those openings and fit through those spaces at the right times. I was lucky to come home with the victory.”

His was the last gold medal Colombia won in the meet as the country set a national record for most golds in the championships.

Back home, Alex raced sparingly, focusing on a few big events during the cross country season.

He set the Marshfield school record for cross country in the Lewis & Clark College Invitational in Portland, finishing in 15:18.80 and breaking the record previously held by Jared Bassett, the Pirates’ last male state champion in the sport in 2007 (Shaylen Crook won the girls title in 2013).

In one of his few other races, Alex set the Colombia record for the 18-and-under age group for 5,000 meters in the Crater Track Twilight 5,000, when he clocked 15:06.60.

He won the Sky-Em League title last week to qualify for the state meet.

“Going into state, I am super excited,” he said. “I think I can do really well. I am shooting to take home a state championship for Marshfield. I have done the work leading up to this. I have been training a lot. I know I am ready to go show them where I am at.”

If he wins, he would become Marshfield’s third boy to win a state title, following Bassett and Steve Prefontaine, who won in both 1967 and 1968.

That’s pretty good for someone who didn’t take up running seriously until middle school, since his first love was soccer.

“In sixth grade, something my mom had noticed, I was really good at the endurance aspect of soccer,” he said. “At the end of the game, I was able to sprint down the field when everyone else was tired. So, in sixth grade, Mom decided it might be a good idea to try cross country and give it a shot to see what my running abilities were.”

Alex was a student in the North Bend school district then, and the results quickly were good.

He was fourth in the district meet as a sixth-grader, second in seventh grade and first in eighth grade.

As a freshman at North Bend, he placed 12th in the Class 5A state meet.

But a family tragedy — the death of his older brother, during his sophomore year caused him to reconsider school.

“I needed somewhere where I could start over, rebuild who I am,” he said.

Marshfield was the perfect fit, said Alex, who lived in Coos Bay while he was competing for North Bend.

He said he has been able to keep on track both athletically and in the classroom, where he carries a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

He has long hoped his running and his grades would get him into his dream school, Brigham Young University.

“My parents went to BYU,” he said. “It’s always been a dream of mine. But I’m opening up to all sorts of colleges now.”

And, ideally, international opportunities, too.

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