Tonya Garcia’s children have grown into standout track and field athletes, but she’s always pushing them to do more. When she was competing at the University of Texas-Pan American as a student-athlete from 1990-93, she earned major points in five events. She would often begin her day with jumps at 8 a.m., then help close out the competition at 8 p.m. as part of the mile relay.
“It’s so funny, because my kids compete now, and they do really well, but I’m constantly telling them to prepare themselves for five events,” Garcia said. “I tried to prepare my kids to have a full day of track, because it’ll pay off.”
Garcia’s efforts paid off with plenty of points, a trio of program records and an induction to the UTRGV Athletics Hall of Fame at 11 a.m. Saturday in the UTRGV Ballroom.
She still holds the program record in the long jump after posting a mark of 20 feet, 1 3/4 inches in 1993. She was also a program record holder in the 400-meter relay and indoor 200 dash, though both marks have since been bested.
“I was excited, and humbled, and blessed, and grateful, because I love UTRGV,” Garcia said of learning that she would be inducted. “I’m blessed to have gotten an education and to have been able to be a college athlete there in Division I track, and it was a wonderful opportunity. It led to me being the first in my family to graduate with a college degree, so I’m completely stoked that the selection committee would recognize me and my accomplishments. So I was very happy, to say the least.”
Garcia continued to compete after college, eventually setting a new personal record of 21 feet in the long jump. She also regularly earned points in the triple jump and in various relay and sprint events at UTPA.
“The whole experience was amazing,” Garcia said. “I’m a Bronc for life. I’m just very happy, and just humbled and looking forward to it.”
Garcia is still involved in the sport, helping to coach her four children: 16-year-old Soledad, 13-year-old Halle, 11-year-old Gus III and 10-year-old Pilar.
Soledad was part of a state-title winning mile relay team, and Halle has been nationally ranked on the AAU circuit in the 55-meter dash, Tonya said.
“And my little one is a beast,” Tonya added. “She’s the strongest of the four, so we’ll see what happens with her.”
Tonya has also been involved in coaching at the high school level, heading the girls soccer program at Edinburg Vela during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Tonya said she grew up playing soccer but gave up the sport when her high school in her hometown of Ennis didn’t field a team. Now, all three of her daughters play in the FC Dallas program.
She’s also coached high school track in Edinburg, spending one year at Vela and two at Economedes. After graduating UTPA, she originally worked with Border Patrol as a federal agent before opting for a safer path.
“We decided we wanted to have a family and started having kids, so I decided to do something a little less dangerous and that would involve me being at home more with my family,” Tonya said.
Tonya and the family moved to Denton last year, and she’s currently a teacher at a pair of high schools in Denton ISD — Braswell and Ryan.
Having lived in Edinburg longer than anywhere else, Tonya said she’d like to someday move back to the area, perhaps as soon as next year.
“Edinburg is my home,” Tonya said. “I do intend to come back. I think it’ll be really neat.”
Tonya is part of a UTRGV Athletics Hall of Fame class that also includes the 1975 baseball team, Ricky Brockway (baseball, 1974-75), Mire Chatman (men’s basketball, 2000-02), Alex Gravel (women’s basketball, 1998-03) and Leah (Viloria) Hampton (women’s tennis, 1987-91). Additionally, program supporters Dan and Terry Martinez are being inducted to the Hall of Honor.