GONZALES — Add “college-bound athlete” to the list of accomplishments for senior Haley Garza who on Wednesday signed her letter of intent to Sam Houston State University (SHSU).
Garza, who has a laundry list of accolades including three-time district champion in the mile race and state qualifier in cross-country, has picked Huntsville as her destination for higher education.
“It felt right,” Garza said. “I really loved all the teammates I got to meet and they were all just so nice and friendly. They made me feel like I was at home.”
At the signing ceremony, Cully Doyle, who is the girls athletic director as well as the head coach in both cross-country and track and field, explained Garza’s path toward SHSU.
“In seventh grade I got here, six years ago, and I don’t think she thought she’d be here at this moment,” he told the crowd of students. “It’s amazing how life and God opens up different doors to you if you’re willing to accept those avenues. Proud of her commitment level. If you don’t know it yet she works pretty hard, she does a lot of things behind the scenes most people want to do but aren’t willing to do.”
The senior Lady Apache will focus on long-distance running in college, despite being a multi-sport athlete for Gonzales. Garza was busy throughout the year, participating in cross-country, basketball, softball and track and field. Once she reaches the college level, she’ll stick with the running, something she always knew she wanted to do and by her sophomore year knew she could accomplish.
“Coach Doyle told me God put me in my life for a reason,” Garza explained. “Whenever I was a sophomore, I ran 5:37 at district and won and I never thought I’d break six minutes. Right before that I only ran 5:59.”
Even with her God-given talent, it was hard work that took her to this going, Doyle explained.
“I can sit here and name several accolades but I want to appreciate her and her work ethic,” he touted. “The biggest thing for me is, we want to carry that on. We get asked a lot of questions, what are you going to do without this athlete and my response is the same. I think it’s important that they leave a legacy of hard work. we don’t talk about talent. I don’t like to talk about the word talent in my program. Work ethic is going to carry you. If you’re lucky enough, God-given talent with that hard work is going to care you far. I appreciate that, I appreciate the family she carries and the commitment. Just pray that the young ones keep buying in.”
After her college career is over, Garza wants to eventually join the coaching field, using her knowledge to mold the next track or cross-country star. Her best advice to the younger generation is to trust the coaching.
“They do know what’s best and they do have the best intentions for you,” she said.
Sam Houston State University is located in Huntsville and is the third oldest public institution of higher learning in the state of Texas. SHSU is a Division I school in NCAAA, currently in the Southland Conference.