Girls Winter Track: Garcia answers long-distance call

When Nicole Garcia steps to the starting line, she’s ready to go the distance, and these days that’s long distance.

Once upon a time, way back when she was an eighth-grader, Garcia was a sprinter for the Shoreham-Wading River girls track and field team, running 100- and 200-meter races. By the time she was a sophomore, though, she gave running longer distances a try and expanded her horizon.

“Now she is one of the best,” said SWR coach Paul Koretzki, who noted that the senior will run cross country and track for Stony Brook University on a partial scholarship. “She was a decent sprinter, not really good but decent, and she just emerged into cross country and now she’s a great distance runner.”

Garcia is coming off a tremendous cross-country season in which she ran in her first state meet in November. She finished 11th in Class B in 17 minutes and 42.6 seconds at cold SUNY/Plattsburgh.

This indoor track season has seen Garcia continue her fine form. She easily won the 1,500 meters in a crossover meet Sunday morning at Suffolk County Community College’s Suffolk Federal Arena.

Garcia surged to a hefty lead from the start and continued to build on it from there. Using an economy of motion, Garcia’s fluid running style helped her lap some competitors before the bell lap. She crossed the finish line in 4:54.70. The second-place runner, Lindenhurst senior Veronica Szygalowicz, came in at 5:05.35. SWR junior Sofia Stirpe was 16th among the 31 runners in 5:59.55.

“I know I started out way too fast, so it definitely slowed me down,” Garcia said. “I got a little too tired. I just wasn’t mentally prepared, I guess, today.”

Garcia paid a price for that quick start later in the race. “Oh, it was really tough,” she said. “My legs were dying out. I could barely keep my legs up, but I just kept going for it.”

The race involves seven and a half laps on the 200-meter track. “By like the fourth lap, your legs are like done,” said Garcia.

Garcia said she was unhappy with her time because it was slower than the 4:44.21 she ran to take first in the North Shore Invitational at The Armory in Manhattan earlier this season.

“She opened up [with] a vicious 200 [meters] and got a 20-yard lead and never gave it up,” Koretzki recalled of the North Shore Invitational race. “That was a great race. She just ran away with it, stole it.”

Garcia has also run the 3,000 — her favorite indoor event — in as fast as 10:13, “which is very, very good,” said Koretzki.

The soft-spoken Garcia is known for being a tenacious trainer.

“In the workouts, I have to calm her down,” Koretzki said. “She runs every race and every workout the same way. She’s very quiet, never says a word and simply gets everything done. It’s as simple as that.”

Typically, sprinters don’t like running long-distance events, and long-distance runners don’t like sprints. Garcia proved to be different, though.

“I just love the challenge,” she said of running long distances. “Yeah, I love it.”

Parrinello wins race walk. SWR junior Tori-Ann Parrinello handily won the 1,500-meter race walk in 8:26.65, almost 27 seconds faster than the next finisher. The Wildcats brought about 20 girls to the meet. Margaret Panasci was third in the 55-meter hurdles (10.22), Madison Zelin fifth in the 300 (45.07) and Elenora Undrus sixth in the 1,000 (3:29.87).