Athlete of the Week

One of the many cool things about high-school sports is that things don’t always go according to the script. In a quote often attributed to early legendary sportswriter Damon Runyon (but that actually came from fellow sportswriter Hugh Keough), the race does not always go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but that is the way to bet.

Take throwers, for example, in track and field. On the guys’ side, they’re usually two- or three-sport athletes, with the other sport(s) being football and maybe wrestling. They’re football lineman types—big, strong, well-conditioned, often wide. 

This year’s Division II State champion in the shot put and discus, Sam Hala’ufia, certainly fits that description of an athlete. (Actually, he fits the description of two of those athletes.) But the guy who finished second at State in the discus (and fourth in the shot put) is delightfully unique.

Flowing Wells junior Richard Legarra doesn’t play football and he doesn’t wrestle. He plays basketball. At 6’ 5” and 180 pounds, he’s not built like a javelin thrower. He’s built like a javelin.

“Yeah,” he acknowledges, “I’ve always been kind tall and (slender), but I really enjoy the throws. There’s a lot of technique that goes into it.”

While Hala’ufia uncorked a crazy 190-footer to win the discus title, he’s also a senior, meaning that Legarra could be the heir apparent. The Caballero threw 159’ 11.”

“It’s frustrating to get one out there that’s so close to the next level (160 feet). It wasn’t my best meet.” (State meets rarely are for any athlete. They have eight or 10 meets in a season in which to do their best. The odds that it will happen at State are slim.) 

“I’ll get it next year.”

What he’s working on right now for next year is basketball. When the phrase “Flowing Wells Basketball” is mentioned these days, it automatically brings to mind the girls’ team that has been to three consecutive State championship games. Legarra recognizes that the girls get a lot of the attention and they deserve it. “But we’re going to be good next year. I want my senior year to be special in both sports.”

Flowing Wells is dropping down from 5A to 4A next year, but it’s uncertain whether that will help or hurt. While last year, the Cabs had to battle Marana, Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge, and Buena, this coming year, they will be in a Region along with Sahuaro, Pueblo, Salpointe, and Canyon Del Oro. That’s tough, but not impossible.

Legarra is preparing, but he is taking a unique path. He doesn’t buy into the whole club basketball nonsense. “I know all these guys who say that you have to do that to get better, but that’s not for me. I can work hard and get to where I want to go.

“People would probably look at me and tell me that there’s no way that I could be a (State-level) thrower, but I am. I just believe.”

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