Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month Alamogordo Olympic Champion Benny Garcia
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month we showcase Alamogordo's only Olympic Champion. The year 1952 brought Alamogordo High School Track & Field back to the winner’s circle with Benny Garcia winning for the second consecutive year in the Javelin competition.
Benny Garcia was an excellent Football kicker. He was on the B team. After some injuries and with the objection of his father concerned about him being injured, he became the primary starting kicker. Albert Romero sprained his ankle and Benny became the primary kicker after that. He had a reputation for making it between the goal posts when it mattered most.
Coach Buck saw Garcia’s talents and made concessions to ensure he was able to take part in the school athletic programs.
Benny would walk or run 6 miles home in the dark after practice to La Luz.
At the request of Coach Rolla Buck, Superintendent Barnie arranged the use of a driver education vehicle for Benny to use so that he could take part in Sports. The extra effort paid off for the High School and was life changing for Benny.
His real notoriety came from the Javelin throwing. He set the state record that stood from 1951 to 1966. That record got the attention of the Arizona State University Track and Field Coach that awarded him a full ride scholarship. Benny Garcia finished third in the AAU javelin throw in 1956 and fifth in 1957. At the NCAA Meet, representing Arizona State, he finished sixth in 1955. In his senior year, he was voted MVP of the ASU track team. Garcia had actually started at New Mexico A&M on a football scholarship, but stayed there only briefly.
He is the only graduate of Alamogordo to make it to the Olympic finals taking part in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. He was the first native-born New Mexico athlete to ever compete in the Olympics.
His name is displayed at the Tigers Hall of Fame, Arizona State Hall of Fame, Drake Relays Hall of Fame, and US Navy Hall of Fame.
At the 1956 Olympics he finished 8th place, disappointing Garcia but making his hometown exceptionally proud.
Garcia went on to live a phenomenally successful life as a high achieving Tiger Alumni and a respected businessman in Arizona. After the 1956 Olympics, he served two years in the US Navy, and then started a career in sales with Bankers Life of Nebraska, which led to other work as a broker until his retirement in 1995. He died in 2015.
Special Note Alamogordo High School has produced 4 other Olympic Trials Qualifiers.
Debra Scott was the second graduate of Alamogordo High School and a State Champion Alamogordo High School Volleyball Coach and she become an Olympic Trials Qualifier.
Art Keller Alamogordo High School graduate class of 1972 In the Navy he was entered into the AAU contest, and he ran a 10.028. He was invited to the military Chisholm Games in San Diego. He ran the 100 meter and 4 X 100 Relays. He set records there. He qualified for the Olympic Trials but was not able to compete by order of President Carter because as a member of the Navy he was not allowed to speak out about the Carter ordered Boycott of the Moscow Olympics that year. When he returned, his commanding officer threw a newspaper at him and asked why he did not know he was a capable athlete. The commanding officer then told Keller he wanted him to prepare for the Olympics.
Also of Hispanic Heritage, is Mark Sanchez who was an Alamogordo High School graduate state medalist, won multiple college meets and was an Olympic Trials qualifier. He came back to Alamogordo and served as a counselor and an educator for Alamogordo Public Schools for over 13 years.
Rene Sepulveda is of Hispanic Heritage and the son of Legendary Coach Bob Sepulveda. He was a graduate of Alamogordo High School in 1983 graduated from Idaho State University in 1988. He was a four-year letter winner in track and cross country. He was 1987 NCAA qualifier and earned Big Sky all-conference accolades in the 5,000-meter run, 3,000-meter steeplechase, the 4 x 800-meter relay team and the distance medley relay from 1985-87. Sepulveda is a two time Olympic Trials qualifier for the 1996 and 2000 Olympic trials with an “A” standard in the marathon. He earned a Double Masters Degree of Public Health in Epidemiology and a Masters of Health Promotions Sciences at Oklahoma.
Source: AlamogordoTownNews.com, Coach Bob Sepulveda the Early Days Book written by the author of this story. Permission granted.
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