In Pre's Hometown, Alexander Garcia-Silver Forging Own Path

* Alexander Garcia-Silver smiles as he crosses the line in first at Nike Portland XC

Photo Credit: Tim Healey/Oregonian

"Being at Marshfield, running on Pre's track, Pre inspires me every single day. He's definitely a part of my story. I'm really just honored to know of him, to have met his sisters. I'm honored to know some of his friends, the community of Pre."

By Cory Mull - MileSplit

Alexander Garcia-Silver has been running in Coos Bay, Oregon his entire life. 

Which is to say, the 17-year-old has grown up in a revered part of the country for distance running.

Coos Bay is the town where Steve Prefontaine was born. It's a place where a legend of distance running came of age. It's the blue collar community -- the Port of Coos Bay is Oregon's largest deep-draft coastal harbor -- where the famed Bill Bowerman once descended so he could recruit the town's star pupil to the University of Oregon. 

That was over 50 years ago, though. 

While that fact is alluring, perhaps that's where this pair's connection ends.

Garcia-Silver was born in Colombia. He was adopted when he was two. He didn't even attend Marshfield, the same high school as Pre, until the beginning of the 2021 school year. 

All that being said, Garcia-Silver says he can still feel the aura of Prefontaine almost every day. His legend remains.

"Being at Marshfield, running on Pre's track, Pre inspires me every single day," Garcia-Silver said. "He's definitely a part of my story. I'm really just honored to know of him, to have met his sisters. I'm honored to know some of his friends, the community of Pre."

What's more, Garcia-Silver is now the fastest runner at Marshfield High School since Pre. 

Over his past two cross country races, the senior has unlocked his true potential, winning the Nike Portland XC Invitational in 14:55.20 and the Prefontaine Memorial Run in 14:45.10, the latter being a new personal record. He's currently the ninth-fastest boys athlete in the entire country for 5K.  

Which is kind of insane, because at this time last year Garcia-Silver was still trying to find his place among the elites in Oregon.

A year ago, the state was littered with NCAA Division I talents like James Crabtree, Aiden Smith, Charlie North, Max Girardet, Caleb Lakeman and Michael Maiorano. 

Garcia-Silver didn't find himself in that lead pack. 

"I think it was hard last year," he said. "I fell under the radar. If you look at how crazy our senior class was last year, it was hard. It was hard to shine, no matter what." 

Perhaps there was one salvo, though. Garcia-Silver did win the Oregon Class 4A state championship in cross country, clocking a time of 16:02.20. He went on to the Team Northwest Regional, finishing 21st overall in 15:56.40. 

Still, college recruiters weren't flocking en masse. The high schooler merely had a foot in the door.

In fact, Garcia-Silver, a student-athlete with a 4.0 GPA -- he's currently the No. 1 student in his class at Marshfield -- was doing much of the work himself, sending emails and letters to prospective programs he was interested in. 

"Last year we had some crazy talented guys in Oregon," said Steve Delgado, 51, Marshfield's eighth-year head coach. "Alex was on the outside of that group, those eight to 10 guys who were monsters. As he was trying to talk with programs, they were busy recruiting senior guys. 

"His results were good, but they weren't notice-me good."

But the outdoor season saw Garcia-Silver continue on his upward trajectory. He unleashed personal best times of 4:03.46 in the 1,500m and 8:35.45 in the 3,000m. In the latter performance, one he led for the majority of the way at the Oregon Class 4A Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Garcia-Smith was caught in the final 200 meters. He came up second. 

"I got sat on," Garcia-Silver said. "He closed in 61." 

That moment wasn't lost on him. 

"There are a lot of factors that motivate me," he said. "Having the support I have, knowing what kind of runner I am. But honestly, there wasn't a day of summer training where I did not think of (that loss to) Elwood (Hosking)." 

So where did the aha moment come, then? 

It was probably a combination of factors. Garcia-Silver was developing as an athlete, sure. He was putting in the work and routinely logging the miles, ever diligent in his training. 

But Delgado said he made sure to make adjustments, too.  

One major building block, he said, was a progressive long run that put emphasis on how Garcia-Silver was finishing his races. What once was a steady cruise pace, perhaps anything from eight to 10 miles and on, focused on bearing down in the final miles. 

"As he gets that natural fatigue," Delgado said, "he's having to go faster and faster and faster. That's contributing now to his final mile in races." 

On top of his long run, Delgado said, he added some nuance to the interval workouts, flipping 2K repeats with a first-half tempo and then a second-half effort at VO2 max pace. The pair have also added a little bit more speed throughout the week. Delgado said he now believes in having some form of intensity every day. 

All in all, he said, it's proving a difference this fall. 

Photo Credit: Tristen Shaw/MileSplit

"There are a lot of factors that motivate me. Having the support I have, knowing what kind of runner I am. But honestly, there wasn't a day of summer training where I did not think of (that loss to) Elwood (Hosking)." 

"When you have an athlete at Alex's level, you're foolish if you don't evolve things as things go," Delgado said. "If we have a plan and he says, 'This is how I'm feeling,' maybe we change it." 

Part of that success, though, was Delgado's willingness to try new things and lean on the success of others.

For instance, he personally thanked American Fork distance coach Tim Mostert after using the coach's long run tactic, and some of the shorter interval work has been gleaned from Garcia-Silver's Colombian U20 coaches. Delgado also watched clinics from elite coaches. 

"I think any coach with half a brain looks to other coaches and steals religiously from them," Delgado joked. "Over the summer, I spent a lot of time researching training." 

The adaptations have led to the most successful stints in Garcia-Silver's career. 

Interestingly enough, though, there's been a byproduct to this: Garcia-Silver is now the one being chased by college coaches. 

"In the last three races, the floodgates have opened," Delgado said. 

So what's next for this rising superstar out of Coos Bay? 

Garcia-Silver will be going after history. 

In May, he unofficially claimed Colombia's U20 record in the 5K when he ran 15:19.72 on the track at a meet in Eugene. But it wasn't ratified because certain protocols weren't in place, Delgado said. 

On Oct. 13, though, he's going after it again at the Crater Twilight 5K. Facing off against Crater superstar Tyrone Gorze, who's looking to break 14 minutes at the distance, Garcia-Silver will attempt to break 15 minutes himself. 

That might be enough to put him on the radar of the Colombian Senior National team, not to mention a who's who of NCAA coaches. 

From there, Garcia-Silver has his sights set on the postseason, where he's looking to claim his second straight state title. There are regional and national competitions on the horizon, too.

Prefontaine finished his high school season at Marshfield with state titles in both the mile and two mile, clocking a top time of 8:41.5 in the latter event. With less than six months to go until his senior track season, could Garcia-Silver even put his sights on Oregon's state records? 

Only time will tell. But it's quite the story. 

A teenager forging his own path, long after a legend once did, in this same, small hamlet in Oregon. 

"I wonder if there aren't more people rooting for Alex because of that connection," Delgado said. "Man, that's cool. That's Pre's high school. And here's another guy who's showing himself to have the same range of talent." 

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