UHV’s Garcia named Arthur Ashe first runner-up

Uriel Garcia, right, holds his 2020 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar first runner-up award in a photo with Adrian Rigby, UHV soccer head coach.

University of Houston-Victoria men’s soccer defender Uriel Garcia was named a 2020 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar first runner-up on Thursday during a virtual awards ceremony in New York.

Garcia, a graduate of UHV with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, was one of three finalists selected for the award. He was recognized from the more than 790 student-athletes from 42 sports that were nominated for the award.

Rodrigo Blankenship, a football player from the University of Georgia, was named the Male Scholar of the Year, while Raena Eldridge, a swimmer at Texas A&M University, was named the Female Scholar of the Year.

 “We are excited and proud for Uriel to receive this recognition,” said UHV soccer coach Adrian Rigby. “It’s equally exciting for UHV’s student-athletes to be recognized with some of the biggest universities in the country. Uriel has been an exemplary student-athlete during his time here at UHV, and we are proud to have his hard work recognized for the impact he had in the Victoria community.”

Garcia, a 2015 graduate of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School, twice has been named a semifinalist for the award. He was also recognized in 2018 in men’s soccer. He was one of 10 semifinalists that includes all collegiate divisions from NAIA to NCAA Division I.

As the name denotes, this edition is a part of a quarter-century legacy of recognizing outstanding minority young men and women who have distinguished themselves in their academic and athletic pursuits.

In addition to their athletic ability, students named Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5, be at least sophomores academically, and be active on their campuses or in their communities.

“It was a pleasure being one of the last four finalist, and even though I didn’t win, I’m proud of being the first runner-up,” said Garcia. “It’s a big accomplishment reflecting all the hard work I did on and off the field. It also shows the importance of being a student-athlete, staying on top of my classes while exceeding on the field. I’m also glad I was able to give back so much to the community to set an example for others. I just want to thank everybody who supports the UHV program and the people who have always supported me.”

Garcia, who was a four-year member of the UHV soccer team, has been very active in his community, school and team during his time with the Jaguars.

He was recently named the Red River Athletic Conference Character Athlete of the Week in recognition of his service to his school and community.

He has been involved in the Movember cancer awareness program for the past five years, has assisted with Tacos and Beer Run for Wounded Warriors, contributed many hours of his time to Samaritan’s Purse to support Hurricane Harvey recovery and helped decorate a senior citizens home during Christmas.

He was named a CoSIDA Academic All-District recipient in soccer this past season, has been a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar athlete, and a four-time RRAC Scholar Athlete. He has been named to the UHV President’s List five times and the Deans’ List six times.

During his four seasons with the Jaguars, he tallied two goals and four assists with two game-winning goals. The UHV defense recorded 33 shutouts during his four seasons along with a 50-11-7 record and made two trips to the NAIA National Championships opening round. He was named to the RRAC second team and Champions of Character team during the 2019 season, along with being named the team’s Newcomer of the Year in 2016.

Garcia said he plans to go to graduate school to continue his goal of becoming a physical therapist.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Paul Ebner