Sunday, February 28, 2016


Editor, the Facts,
I was invited to attend the reunion of the Falfurrias High School State Championship Cross Country Teams.  Many of them are former collegiate teammates. Some I competed against, and all of them I consider my friends.  They have accepted me as one of them, and I was honored to have been in attendance at their memorable event of October 24.
I even went as far as thinking as a “Jersey” and as a Jersey on that incoming.  I woke up early and got my stuff ready.  I got my best running shoes and Fal colors that I would wear that night. This was the routine that the great Fal Cross Country and track teams performed before practice, a competition, or an award ceremony.  I was getting ready for that reunion for the teams from that era that had produced nine State Championships, seven in the “State Championship Organization” and two when it was changed to U.I.L. competition. These Fal teams would compete with the big schools from all over Texas and defeat them. These are schools that are now classified as 6A schools. Their times would still be 6A caliber.
Many of these runners still hold both individual and team records in state and college levels. They would be state contenders in any state then and now because of the intense training and fast times. They were known to run 50 to 100 miles a week to prepare for competition. It was common in those years for runners that wore the Fal uniform to run under two minutes in the half mile and under 4:20 in the mile during track season. This may be the reason why many became state ranked cross country and track athletes. Some were even nationally ranked competitors.
Their names appear in many newspapers throughout Texas and even in the pages of the Track & Field News with “Falfurrias” besides their names.  One runner was the Sophomore National record holder for the 880-yard dash, Andres Martinez This was a time when Falfurrias runners wore a “Wing F” on their racing shirt and track uniform that appeared to be like a spacesuit.
Falfurrias Cross Country & Track teams had also become a “Farm Team” for many colleges in Texas. The F.H.S. athletes, while attending different colleges on scholarships, continued breaking records and winning championships as they had done in high school, and still stand to this date.
The reunion was organized by Coach Tony Garza, Robert Gonzalez, and Quirino Caro. “Several team members have passed away,” commented Garza. “This is one reason we did this.”
“This may be the only and last time we see each other,” Caro stated. “This was done to recognize the teams of our time and Falfurrias, and also to reminisce and acknowledge the team members that scored the foundation for the team’s State Championships and tradition that is Falfurrias,” he added.
Hours before the event started, some wondered if the reunion would still happen because of a storm rolling into Texas, but like the workouts years ago in stormy weather, it was not cancelled. So as the night began to fall, the Fal High greats started to gather like moths to a corner light at the Star of Texas Restaurant.
The Fal greats were greeted at the entrance by the trio of organizers and by each other. About 40 Team Champions from Falfurrias High school had arrived to attend a gathering of standouts from yester-years. After all these years, a few were still at their racing weights. The first championship had been captured some 50 years ago.

As they entered they saw their pictures on the walls from their high school days and posters depicting their consecutive years of accomplishments. These men had grown up in Falfurrias and had taken different paths in life. Now they came from all over Texas, one from as far away as Virginia.
After an hour or so of socializing, Alonzo Pena gave the welcoming prayer and included a memoriam for Richard Lewis, Ernesto Cortez, Adrian Garza, Isaac Garza, Gilbert Martinez, Donato Martinez, Albert Munoz, Gilbert Munoz, J.P. Ramirez, Ricky Saenz, and Steve Wilson. After that, dinner was served and the event began.
The speakers that directed the event were Tony Garza, Robert Gonzalez, and Quirino Caro. All three spoke of the history of the nine state titles in the all-terrain sport, and championship accomplishments in Track & Field of those years.
Homer Martinez and Robert Perez spoke of the benefits of being in cross country (Having a place to take a warm shower, or eating a hamburger were luxuries that their families could not afford).
One guest speaker was Coach Hernan Figueroa from Vela High School in Edinburg, Texas. He spoke of being blessed with the opportunity to have been coached by Homer Martinez while in college and to have known Quirino Caro and other fine people from Falfurrias.
The tradition began in 1962 with the late Coach Richard Lewis who coached Homer Martinez, Robert Gonzalez, Baldemar Soliz, Julio Martinez, Raul Rivera, Eduardo Almendarez, Ovidio Cavazos, and Donato Martinez.
The first state championship was earned in 1965. Coach Richard Lewis’ runners at that time were Robert Gonzalez, Homer Martinez, Eliseo Garcia, Robert Perez, Rene Naranjo, Andres Martinez and Cayetano Rodriguez.
The second gold team with a perfect score of 10 pts. Coached aby Richard Lewis was composed of Robert Gonzalez, Amador Arredondo, Quirino Caro, Andres Martinez, Rene Naranjo, Robert Perez, Mache Gonzales, and Israel Vela.
The third championship was attained by Coach Nolan Tommie. The runners were Johnny Mayfield, Andres Martinez, Rene Naranjo, Quirino Caro and Johnny Rosas.
Number four, also coached by Nolan Tommie, were Rene Naranjo, Johnny Rosas, Charlie Canales, Onofre Lopez, Ramon Garza, Gilbert Munoz and Beltrando Soliz.
The fifth was coached by Tony Garza. Runners were Gilbert Martinez, Benito Gonzalez, Ramon Garza, Adrian Garza, Albert Munoz, Ramiro Davila, Gilbert Munoz and Juan Hinojosa.
The sixth title team was again coached by Tony Garza. They were Gilbert Martinez, Ramiro Davila, Ricky Saenz, Adrian Garza, Ramon Garza, Gilbert Munoz, and Edward Gonzalez.
The seventh championship team was coached by Pat Romero. The runners were Gilbert Martinez, Ramiro Davila, Ricky Saenz, Alonzo Pena, Ramon Garza, Benito Gonzalez and Adrian Garza.
Number eight was also coached by Pat Romero and the team was composed of Benny Martinez, Edward Gonzalez, Adrian Garza, Alonzo Pena, Luis Longoria, Danny Pena, Andy Pena, and Benito Gonzalez.
The ninth and last state championship was led by Coach Robert Gonzalez in 1980. The team consisted of Tony Martinez, Jay Cantu, Erlin Garcia, Homer Garza, and Juan Salas. In 1980, Sally Pena was the only state qualifier in the female division for Falfurrias.
The organizers also addressed the great F.H.S. Track Teams of the 1960’s through early 1980s. They were record breakers, and their records still stand in Jersey Land after all these years. The State qualifying members were Julio Martinez, Robert Gonzalez, Homer Martinez, Amador Arredondo, Lamar Rodriguez (high jump), M.L. Best (100 & 200), Greg Pape (hurdles), Johnny Mayfield and Andres Martinez (880). Noe Guerra, Javier Ruelas, Balde De Luna, Best and Pape (mile relay), Naranjo, Caro, R. Garza, Gilbert, Benny, Tony Martinez (mile), and many more.
In 1970, the Fighting Jerseys won the District and Regional Track & Field Championship and advanced to state. Many of the Cross Country teams from that stretch of championships had brothers that composed the Fighting Jersey teams. They were the Martinez, Gonzalez, Garza, and Pena brothers.
Many stories were shared during the “open mike” session. One I recall is Danny Pena saying, “When I was in elementary school, I used to see my neighbor Rene Naranjo and my brother Alonzo running all the time. It was common to see runners in the neighborhoods and in town those days. Then I would read in the Falfurrias Facts that they were champions, so I too wanted to train like them.”
There’s a movie titled “McFarland USA” about running. The Fal story is better and faster. I hope the Falfurrias Facts will continue to acknowledge their accomplishments.
Coach Noe De Leon

Robstown, Texas