Ulises Garcia is one of the top young decathletes in the nation, a status he cemented by winning the AAU junior national decathlon championship at the ESPN RISE games as a sophomore. Normally, that would make Garcia a shoo-in to earn a state title in his chosen event. There's just one problem: Garcia's state doesn't even offer a high school decathlon competition.
As reported by the Miami Herald, Garcia finds himself in the unique predicament of being a national-caliber talent in a sport in which he can't even compete in on an everyday basis. Now a senior at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Calvary Christian, Garcia instead has to hone his decathlon talent by focusing on improvements in contributing events, focusing mainly on the 110-meter high hurdles and 300 hurdles during his final high school season.
"It's very disappointing I won't be able to compete for a high school state title in the decathlon," Garcia told the Herald. "Other states have it during the high school season but not Florida. I feel like there are countless athletes in Florida who passed through that could have been great decathletes. A lot of kids in Florida don't even know what the decathlon is."
Not only does Garcia know what the decathlon is, he knows what it takes to excel in the sport. He first competed in the decathlon on the high-profile AAU circuit following his sophomore campaign, when he won the ESPN RISE title and finished in fourth place at the AAU Junior Olympics. As a junior he finished fourth at the RISE games and sixth at the AAU Juniors.
Those results turned the heads of college recruiters, with Central Missouri eventually offering Garcia a scholarship for an event he can't even compete in for his own school.
According to the Herald, Garcia's versatility has been in the cards since his freshman season, when he was a star linebacker for the Calvary Christian football team. Without a decathlon title to shoot for, Garcia has instead become his school's record holder in a whopping seven different events: the pole vault, triple jump, 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 800 meters, 1,600 relay and 3,200 relay.
As much as those school records are a testament to Garcia's immense talent, one gets the sense that he and his coach would gladly trade them just to give Garcia a chance at state title glory in the one event in which he truly belongs.
"To be able to transition from a sprint to a weight event to a distance race takes great mental capacity," Calvary Christian track and field coach Bobby Cantrell told the Herald. "Ulises has that. As a freshman he started at linebacker for the varsity football team. He didn't have great size or speed, but you could tell this kid was made for the decathlon.
"The state is doing our athletes a disservice by not having that competition. You have a lot of athletes running track that are not going to be state champion in any events but deserve the opportunity to show what they can do in the multievent competition. It is just sad. I can't think of a good reason why they quit doing it."