"It's great," the senior mechanical engineering honor student says. "It's all the subtle things that make it sink in. It will continue to sink in through the summer as I have these realizations of things I get to do. One of the things is I get to have my name up on the wall (at Auburn's James E. Martin Aquatic Center) with all of the other Olympians."
Garcia and his teammates on the men's and women's swimming and diving teams will also get to put up two more national championship banners at the Martin Aquatic Center as each team defended its national championships earlier this year. A ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. At that event Garcia and and other Auburn swimming and diving athletes who have already qualified for the 2004 Olympics in Greece or who have qualified for Olympic trials will be recognized.
Garcia, who became the first person to win back-to-back NCAA titles in platform diving this past March en route to Auburn's fourth men's national swimming and diving title, says his experience at the U.S. Olympic Trials had an Auburn flavor in suburban St. Louis.
"The experiences I have had up to this point of Auburn, all of the support I have had and the training that I have put in to all of this, I associate all of that with Auburn," he says. "My crowd there--we had the St Louis Auburn Club there, my parents and family had all of their Auburn gear on. It was just the epitome of what Auburn is."
Garcia was part of a recruiting class brought in by diving coach Jeff Shaffer to build a program that would help contribute to the success of their talented swimming counterparts.
"What impressed me was his work ethic, his determination to be the best that he could be," Shaffer says. "That attitude has shown in his success academically as well as what he has recently accomplished. He totally dominated the field at the trials last week. It was just inspiring and awesome to be a part of that."
Garcia competes in his best event, platform diving from a 10-meter tower.
Coming to Auburn from Baton Rouge, La., Garcia didn't have to leave town to compete in the SEC. He narrowed his college choices to a pair of colleges and and notes that Auburn's biggest selling points were Shaffer and the College of Engineering.
"I was looking at LSU and Auburn," Garcia says. "Those were my two schools. Jeff Shaffer was a big deciding factor on coming to Auburn and also the curriculum I chose to study of mechanical engineering. I feel like I got the best education I could have hoped for out of Auburn. That is something the will take me beyond the Olympics."
Garcia has won numerous academic awards, including a recent one from the nation's college sports information directors, who voted him the top student-athlete in the country this year.
Shaffer also acknowledges what the three-time Academic All-American has been able to accomplish is impressive. "What he as been able to do in the classroom, likewise what he has been able to do in the pool, is use his very good skill of time management and intensity that won't allow him to be less than perfect," Shaffer says.
Garcia kept his grades up while earning numerous athletic honors, including becoming Auburn's first All-American diver since Koffi Kla in 1996.
After making the decision to leave home and attend college at Auburn, it didn't take long for Garcia to contribute. He was named SEC Freshman Diver of the Year in 2001 and kept improving. The 2002-2003 campaign was the breakout season for Garcia with the diver winning his first SEC and NCAA titles in the platform event. The 2003 SEC Championship and his performance at the U.S. Olympic Trials remain Garcia's favorites.
The 2003-2004 season saw even more dominance from Garcia as he reclaimed the SEC and NCAA platform titles and became Auburn's first NCAA Diver of the Year.
Shaffer credits Garcia's demeanor and leadership abilities as his keys to success. "He's very even tempered," the coach says. "A lot of times I try to get him to relax, have fun and smile a bit. Well, that's not quite his personality. He's a very strong leader in this program. His leadership has been truly by example. People follow his lead and show the same level of intensity and commitment."
As Garcia nears his first Olympics, he hopes the trip to Athens, Greece is one that he can remember fondly. "I want to enjoy it more than anything," he says. "Getting a medal would certainly help. The U.S. right now is kind of on a comeback on the world scene. More than anything I would love to be associated with that comeback."
Shaffer says that Garcia's biggest concern now is to improve on what got him to the Olympics.
"Everybody's goal is to make the Olympic Games," Shaffer says. "Well, now we have done that. Now is a situation where we reset our focus and try and improve upon what we were able to do at the trials. If he is able to do that then the chances for a medal are there."
Editor's Note: This is the seventh in a series of summer features on AUTigers.com on current and former Auburn athletes.