Selma High’s Aliyah Garcia is running cross-country to stay in shape for track and field, and so far she is doing a splendid job of it.

Saturday, Sept. 9 Garcia had the Bears’ top time in the Kingsburg 2-mile, crossing the finish line in 13:16.80 to finish 10th in the senior girls race.

“The coach (Alex Reyes) thought it would be good for track, so I took his word for it,” said Garcia, whose first name is pronounced A-lee-uh. "Cross- country is completely different than track, though. I have to go so hard to push myself past my limits. Mentally I’m telling myself I want to stop, but then I see someone ahead of me and I want to catch them.”

There are benefits to finishing a fast 2-miler such as Kingsburg or one of the Bears’ typical, six-mile training runs. There is a sense of accomplishment, not to mention that flood of endorphins she receives and the strength Garcia is building with each run.

“I’m not nervous before, but I want to get it over with,” said Garcia, 17. “When I finish I’m so tired and exhausted. It’s very gratifying.”

The 5-foot-2 Selma senior even says she is sleeping better, a byproduct for most long-distance runners.

It is quite a departure from track season when she does the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, the 1,600-meter relay and the high jump. That is mostly quick, fast-twitch fare, compared to the long, measured runs she’s taking now.

“A track workout is hard, but I always feel like I can do another 100 or 400, maybe because I’m used to it,” Garcia said. “In cross-country you keep running and running and it’s tiring mentally and physically.”

The Selma standout is enduring, as one might expect of the daughter of a former Selma High wrestler and track athlete (father Ruben) and a gymnast (mother Yolanda, who attended several high schools).

Garcia also has a sister (Mia) who was a cheerleader in high school; a brother (also named Ruben) who is wrestling on scholarship at McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois; and a younger brother (Jesse James Garcia), who is a wrestler.

The Bear runner played varsity basketball for a spell until giving it up.

She also is an accomplished singer – performing for the Selma High choir last year, singing the national anthem at numerous Bear athletic events and auditioning twice in Los Angeles for “The Voice” reality TV show.

She can be seen and heard on youtube.com, entertaining the masses in the Selma gymnasium and practicing the national anthem in her dining room. 

“It’s nerve-wracking sitting there and waiting because you can hear the other singers and there’s a lot of competition,” Garcia said of "The Voice" auditions. “You don’t really know what to expect.”

The Selma senior gave it an earnest try, but did not qualify in either attempt. Her mom's faith is unwavering, though. 

“She just has the spirit of a star and is very talented,” Yolanda said. “She’s dedicated and full of energy. She has a very positive attitude and people feel it when they’re around her.”

Pops Ruben sees a talented girl who could be playing any number of sports.

“Her athleticism is phenomenal,” Ruben said. “All of the coaches are telling her ‘You need to be in this.’ She likes to try everything and is good at most things."

When the star runner was a little girl, she attended high school football games with her parents and sang and danced with the cheerleaders, immediately becoming the center of attention.

“They’d say look at that little girl with the cheerleaders – she’s so cute,” Ruben said.

Now it's Garcia the fans root on, and that's not about to change anytime soon. 

John Murphy can be reached at 583-2413 or jmurphy@hanfordsentinel.com.

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