All of those pre-dawn treks from Battlement Mesa to Glenwood Springs for early-morning swimming practices at the Glenwood Recreation Center, followed by a full day of school and another after-school practice paid off for Rifle senior Cecilia Garcia as the Rifle product signed on to swim with the College of Saint Mary’s in Omaha, Nebraska.
Despite all of the early-morning travel and work put in with the Demons in the pool, Garcia, the daughter of Gilbert and Susan Garcia, wasn’t even looking to swim in college, at least until Saint Mary’s showed interest.
“I wasn’t really expecting to swim in college; I was really just doing this for fun,” said Garcia. “When I didn’t make the regionals this year, I kind of just let the thought of swimming in college go because I didn’t think there was a chance. Then, Coach [Cole] Malin reached out to me, it really sparked a new motivation for me, and I re-found the love for swimming in college.”
Despite re-finding that love, Garcia was hesitant at first after Malin showed interest. A self-described “party-pooper,” Garcia didn’t give it much thought at first, simply because she wasn’t interested. However, thanks to a push in the right direction from family, friends, and coaches, Garcia ultimately decided to sign on with the Blue Flames, becoming the first Rifle student to sign with a college for swimming.
“That means a lot to me,” said Garcia, who signed her national letter of intent in front of nearly 75 friends, family, and school administrators. “I’m just really proud to be the first one to do this, and I was really shocked at the turnout for this signing today; I wasn’t expecting that at all, so to see all those people here just meant so much.”
Garcia will head to Omaha to compete in the 100 Butterfly, which was her specialty with the Demons. That attraction to the butterfly event started early on in her swimming career, which started in 4th grade. That dedication to the sport — and the event — grew, thanks to the support of her mother, Susan, who provided transportation and support throughout the years.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love and support of my parents, especially my mom,” said Garcia. “She really pushed me to do this and supported me 100 percent every step of the way; really, she put just as much work into this as I have. She’d go in late to work just to make sure I was at practice each morning, and she’d miss work a lot during swim season just to make sure she was at my swim meets every week. My dad supported us 100 percent in everything we wanted to do with swimming; the support just means so much.”
Moving up to the next level to swim competitively will certainly be hard, but the Rifle senior has gone through the hardest part these last three years: dedicating herself 100 percent to the sport and doing whatever it takes in the pool and in the classroom to better herself. There’s very few athletes that will make the trip from Battlement Mesa to Glenwood Springs nearly every morning to practice, then head to school, get through the day in the classroom, then head back to Glenwood for another practice before heading home. Garcia did, and she’s much better off for having gone through the ringer trying to swim competitively for Glenwood while going to school in Rifle.
“It really tested me at moments, and it’s definitely tested me with my academics,” Garcia said. “Seeing people at practices really made all the hard work worth it.”
“That was a big commitment from her,” added Steve Vanderhoof, Glenwood’s veteran head coach. “We’ve had other Rifle students swim for us in the past, but she was super committed for three years and did whatever needed to be done. To do that for three years, she obviously had to have a big commitment and a big heart, so it’s great to see her sign today; I’m very pleased for her.”
In school, Garcia wants to study kinesiology in hopes of being a personal trainer after college.