It’s one of the oldest clichés in the book: he’s in a class by himself.
But for one shining moment June 5, Gavino Galvan will come close to fulfilling the maxim. That’s a Friday, and with the UIL state track and field meet set for the next day up in Austin, Galvan will receive his diploma in a special ceremony in the Capital City.
So right about the time his long-time classmates from Econ walk down the aisle in Edinburg Saturday, the senior pole-vaulter will be squaring off with the seven other top jumpers in Texas for all the marbles, the state gold medal.
“It’s good, I am going to be excited, to be graduating in Austin,” said Galvan at his daily workout Tuesday. “I mean, I will miss being with friends, but this is a unique opportunity.”
Coach Doug Erickson will award the diploma to his prize pupil up north, with Galvan’s parents, both local educators, in the “crowd.”
What a way to end a Cinderella spring. Sound crazy? It may be, but it gets even wilder when one considers that Galvan, who saved his two best leaps for last at season’s end, almost didn’t make it to his senior season. An emergency appendectomy in December robbed the lean vaulter of over two months of training time under Erickson’s rigorous and calculated schedule. Erickson praised the surgeon that did the job.
“If he hadn’t been so meticulous with laser work, really cut into muscle like they used to, Gavino would have missed the season,” Erickson commented. “But Gavino is such a dedicated athlete, works so hard, that he was able to come back and gradually reach the point he’s at now.”
And it’s quite a point, as Galvan will become only the second athlete in school history to appear at the state meet, after legendary long-distance runner Randy Salazar made it twice each in track and cross country from 2000-2001. He’s also the last competitor alive from the city for 2009.
There are many reasons why Galvan has scaled the heights to join the state kings, from his superb work ethic and expert coaching to his graduation to a longer pole the past six weeks. Add it all up, and the 120-pounder is psyched for the biggest day of his life.
“I kind of knew I would make it to state, I am peaking when it counts,” said the senior, who has the right combination of confidence and realism. “And I think I can do well up there. I want to bring back a medal. It’s what I’ve been striving toward for four years.”
Under the tutelage of Erickson, a former college coach who breaks down the plan from workout to the meet like a scientist, Galvan has thrived, upping the bar with every outing. The latter also wanted to give a special shout-out to Chico Jimenez, who guided the leaper through the early stretches of his career.
“When I was a freshman, I was pretty bad, actually,” chuckled the jovial Galvan, always a clever and engaging sort. “Coach Jimenez told me that if I did what they said, I would be taking everyone to state as a senior. So I kept getting better and finally, this year at the regionals, Coach Jimenez came up to me and he said, ‘I told you so, Gavino.’”
At regionals, Gavino cleared 15-0 easily, armed with the longer pole that gives him an extra burst of power. He’d had to tap out with the shorter pole late in the campaign and gather up the nerve to master the more energetic stick, and did just that.
“I was up there at 15-6 and I think I could have gotten it, except the sun came out,” he explained. “It had been a cloudy day and then we had to jump into the sun. It blinded me and I couldn’t find the bar. I had the approach and the jump, I just didn’t finish.”
It’s probably going to take a leap of 16-0 or better to win the meet, but Galvan, who is beginning to contemplate a college career now and has cleared 15-3, feels sure he can make it happen. Erickson says that despite his diminutive size compared to the other athletes, Galvan has magnificent details and is totally cool under pressure.
“He is so proficient with technique, already good enough for the college level,” said the coach. “Plus, he has done all the workouts and the learning. I would like all the athletes this school to see the example Gavino has set. He never takes a day off, he always does what we ask and more, the college coaches are getting a guy with no bad habits. He really has the potential to be successful at the next level.”
As the week wore on, the pair could be found at Cats Stadium, fine-tuning for state. Under Erickson’s 14-day cycle, Galvan went heavy for three days and later began “unloading” through simulated meets designed to foster a progression toward the actual event, Saturday. The coach believes that Galvan will have the endurance to stand up under fire, and he knows that his Austin-bound athlete has the skills and fire to make his mark.
Tuesday, Galvan explained the mechanics behind each of the poles he uses, noting that now, once he hits the ground with the new one, the magic takes care of itself.
“When I’m standing there and they give me the signal and ask me if I’m ready, I just get energized,” he beamed. “I’m like, ‘Alright!’ and I just go.”
So don’t look for Gavino Galvan at the Jags commencement Saturday. He has matriculated into the rare air of the state’s elite athletes, and if all goes as planned, he will graduate with Lone Star pole-vault honors.