PSJA North track star De La Garza signs on with UTRGV

PSJA North senior Charlize De La Garza poses with her family and coach Madeline Kaufmann (seated far left) at PSJA North High School Tuesday in Pharr. (Nate Kotisso/nkotisso@themonitor.com)

PHARR — During Charlize De La Garza’s signing ceremony, her father, Romeo, told the audience inside PSJA North’s library that he didn’t envision his daughter would grow up to be an athlete.

“When she was younger, she didn’t want to sweat,” PSJA North boys basketball assistant coach Romeo De La Garza said.

“That is accurate,” Charlize De La Garza said. “I thought I was a princess, so I thought I wasn’t doing sports.”

Everything changed when Charlize competed in an elementary school track meet. She ran in the 200-meter dash.

“She was a fourth grader at the time and she just glided in the 200,” Romeo De La Garza said. “Her elementary school coach came up to us and said, ‘I’m telling you, she’s going to be an athlete.’ Track and field captured her heart. She took it and ran with it.”

De La Garza spent her first three years as a track athlete with Mission Veterans. She qualified for the Class 5A Region IV meet in each of her first three seasons.

When Romeo was named as an assistant boys basketball coach at PSJA North last year, Charlize made the decision to join her father in Pharr.

“It was very difficult for me at the beginning, but my coaches and teammates welcomed me,” Charlize De La Garza said. “They helped me out a lot. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Like Charlize, Madeline Kaufmann was stepping into new yet familiar territory as a first-year head track coach. Kaufmann’s father, Marcus, is PSJA North’s head football coach, but Madeline knows a thing or two about track and field.

After wrapping up her career at McAllen Memorial, Kaufmann earned a track scholarship to Stephen F. Austin State University. During her junior year in Nacogdoches, Kaufmann was the Southland Conference outdoor champion in the heptathlon. The heptathlon is comprised of seven events: the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin and 800-meter run.

“She was fantastic from the jump,” Kaufmann said. “She was brand new, but she took the underclassmen under her wing. We were both new to the school, so her Day 1 was my Day 1. We both grew up together here, her as a leader and I as a coach.”

De La Garza qualified for the 2019 Class 6A Region IV meet in the 200-meter dash and the triple jump.

“She helped me out the most,” Charlize De La Garza said of Kaufmann. “When I visited the (PSJA North) campus, she just happened to be here. We found everything together. We walked around the campus together. I look up to her. She’s like my older sister.”

De La Garza officially put pen to paper Tuesday, signing a letter of intent to continue her track career at UTRGV.

“I wanted to stay closer to home, but most of the schools recruiting me were hours away,” Charlize De La Garza said. “I thought that I’d just focus on school, and then UTRGV came along. I’ve been keeping up with their program, and they’ve been really good. I know a lot of athletes there, which was great. I visited the campus and I fell in love with it. The coaches are amazing and the facilities are really nice.”

De La Garza will follow in Kaufmann’s footsteps as a heptathlete for UTRGV.

“When she was done with her high school track career, the first thing she told me is, ‘Alright, coach. Let’s get back in the weight room,’” Kaufmann said. “It was the best feeling in the world knowing that she has the work ethic to be better. The heptathlon is very difficult, but I think she’s going to do very well at it.”