McALLEN — It’s hard enough being freshmen on McAllen High’s track team, but Sabrina Garza and Charlotte Beck have handled their business like they were seasoned upperclassmen.

Garza and Beck came into the Bulldog program in different ways, but their newness to varsity competition is part of what brought them together.

“This year, we have gotten really close,” Beck said. “We’re both really inexperienced with racing. Before races, we’ll talk about what we’re going to do and how we want to finish together.”

During last week’s 29/30-6A area track meet in Laredo, Beck (2 minutes, 26.68 seconds) and Garza (2:26.71) earned the two fastest times in the 800-meter run. Beck and Garza will go up against the top 800-meter runners in Class 6A Region IV during the two-day regional meet Friday and Saturday at Heroes Stadium in San Antonio.

“I think the both us are really competitive. We really don’t like to lose,” Garza said. “We also push each other a lot. That really helps and has been a big part of our success.”

“Charlotte and Sabrina going one and two (at the area meet) was a plan that we put together,” McAllen High girls track coach Luis Cantu said. “Charlotte will always ask me, ‘What should my strategy be going into a race?’ and Sabrina’s asking me the same question. Coming into the area meet, there was a 24-mile-per-hour wind hollering. I told them that it was going to come down to a kicker’s race and they have kicks like no other. It happened to be a slow race where they went about 73 (seconds) after the first lap and I knew we were in a good position to outkick them. It worked out good for us.”

Most runners compete in cross country during the fall and transition into track in the spring, but that wasn’t the case for Garza. She was in the volleyball program back in the fall.

“I originally planned on track being an offseason sport after volleyball, but I fell in love with it,” Garza said. “I used to do triathlons when I was little. I’d have to run mile and two-mile races. Those helped me realize that track was something I wanted to do. From then, I just pushed myself. That’s how I got to where I am now.”

Garza is also a part of the 4×400-meter relay that won the District 30-6A meet (4:10.45) as well as last week’s 29/30-6A area meet in Laredo (4:05.37).

“Once volleyball is over, she (Garza) showed up and said, ‘Hey, coach. I want to run,’” Cantu recalled. “When I saw her run, it took me by surprise. I could see that she was a special talent. As the season has gone on, her confidence has skyrocketed. In this sport, confidence is huge. She’s looking forward to doing great things in the 800 and in the 4×400.”

Beck is no stranger to first-place finishes. Back in October, Beck earned a trip to the UIL Region IV Cross Country Championship after finishing first at the District 30-6A meet.

“Cross country really gave me a good base with distance and strengthened my mind for track and field,” Beck said. “Cross country takes a lot longer and you have to battle with your mind a lot longer. Instead of doing long distances, I’ve worked on a lot more work with my speed.”

The Bulldogs will make the trip north for this week’s regional meet with more weapons than Garza and Beck. McHi’s arsenal also includes Aniah Chaleff-Reyna and Hannah Kelly, two seniors who have signed to compete at Baylor and Duke, respectively.

“All those girls are good role models for us,” Beck said. “If we get nerves, they help calm us down. One time, I had a bad race and they were all there for me. They gave me advice and made me feel a lot better. It’s kind of a lot of pressure to be on the team, because they’ve been great for so long, but it’s also great knowing that we have them on our team if we ever need anything.”

“We just need to go out and perform,” Cantu said. “God willing, we make it to the finals in the 4×400, Hannah (Kelly) gets ahead in the high jump and Aniah (Chaleff-Reyna) gets ahead in the hurdles. Those expectations come with them being seniors, but then you look at our freshman class with Sabrina and Charlotte, you hope they can learn quickly and put everything together all in one race. We can put it all together.”

nkotisso@themonitor.com