Brackenridge senior Johnny Camacho visited his paternal grandmother at a local nursing home Friday morning, shortly before going to Austin to compete in the UIL state track and field meet.
Alice Camacho, 86, is bedridden with Alzheimer’s disease and unable to communicate.
But sometimes words aren't needed to have a conversation.
Johnny kissed his grandmother on the cheek and held her hand as he spoke to her softly during his brief stay.
“I told her I was going to bring a gold medal back to her,” Camacho said Monday.
Camacho fulfilled his promise in grand fashion Friday night, winning the Class 4A boys 800-meter run with a personal-record time of 1:53.82.
Camacho, a three-time district champion in the 800, never had qualified for the state track meet before finishing second at the regional meet on May 4.
“It had always been my goal to get to state, and my dream to win a gold medal in my last high school race,” he said.
Camacho took his medal to school Monday and couldn’t stop looking at it.
“People have been asking me, ‘Have you come down yet?’” Camacho said. “I tell them, ‘Oh, no, I’m still up there.’ I wish I could hold on to this feeling forever.”
Before visiting his grandmother again Saturday, Camacho savored his triumph with his father, a diabetic who is legally blind in one eye, when he returned from Austin late Friday night.
Jesse Camacho, 56, was a custodian at Brack for 15 years before diabetes-related kidney failure forced him to retire last August. Johnny, the youngest of five children born to Jesse and Frances Camacho, who are divorced, is the only sibling who lives with his father.
“My father always taught me that when you start something, you do your best and see it through,” Johnny said. “You never quit. My father has inspired me. Even though he’s sick, he still gets up at 4 in the morning and drives himself to dialysis. He still tries to do things for his family. My mother also has been there for me. All my family inspires me, really.”
Camacho was one of only three San Antonio athletes to win a gold medal at the two-day University Interscholastic League state meet at Myers Stadium in Austin.
Gregory Coleman of Warren won the 5A boys 300-meter hurdles, and Laura Oseghae of Brandeis took first in the 5A girls long jump.
Although his grandmother is in a coma-like state, Camacho relished sharing the news of his victory with her when he visited her Saturday.
“I just told her I did what I said I was going to do,” Camacho said. “I just had to go back and see her, and tell her I love her.”
Camacho won at state despite having the seventh-best qualifying time among the competitors in the 800. Running a nearly flawless tactical race, he took the lead with about 300 meters to go and never relinquished it.
“I couldn’t believe I was that far ahead because I didn’t feel like I was running that fast,” Camacho said. “I kept looking back. I thought that maybe it was an illusion. I kept wondering, ‘Am I that far ahead?’ When I crossed the finish line, I covered my face because I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited.”
Camacho’s time eclipsed his personal record of 1:55.31, set at the regional meet May 4 at Alamo Stadium.
“My legs felt fantastic after the race at the state meet,” Camacho said. “I think I could have run a little faster if I had been pushed more.”
As he waited to get his gold medal at the award stand, Camacho shared his moment of triumph with Brack head boys track coach
Otho “Eddie” Jordan and assistant coach John Hierholzer.
“I went over and gave them a big hug,” Camacho said. “They had the biggest smile on their faces.”
Jordan, completing his 22nd year as head boys track at Brack and 27th at the school, has nurtured Camacho on and off the track. When Camacho’s father retired, it fell on Jordan to give Johnny rides to school for 6 a.m. workouts during cross country season.
“I’m really happy for Johnny because he’s been through a lot of adversity,” Jordan said. “It was great to see him win at the state meet. The disbelief on my face was as big as the one on his face. It’s not that I didn’t think he had the ability, but I just couldn’t believe how perfect he made it look. This is definitely a feather in the hat for SAISD.”
Many of Camacho’s classmates, including those at Brack’s sports banquet Friday night, saw his race on the UIL’s Web site, which carried live streaming of the state meet.
“My phone was buzzing before he finished the race,” Jordan said. “I’ve gotten a bunch of texts and e-mails.”
Ditto for Camacho.
Camacho won the 800 at the district meet as a sophomore, junior and senior, and also was the district champion in the mile this year.
Camacho’s victory is a much-needed boost for the San Antonio Independent School District and, for that matter, all inner-city schools that struggle to compete at the regional and state levels.
“I take a lot of pride in representing Brackenridge,” Camacho said. “Whether it’s athletics or academics, it doesn’t matter where you come from, or whether you’re or rich or poor. Your ethnicity shouldn’t matter, or how big your school is.
“You just do what you have to do, and good things will happen. But you have to work hard. You have to make things happen. I hope
I’ve helped lay down the path for some other people. I hope somebody sees what I did and runs with it.”
Hey, I’m 55 and this young man has inspired me! After visiting with Camacho on Monday, I walked away feeling good about life and the power of the human spirit.
Camacho’s victory is a testament to his perseverance and the support he has received from his coaches, family, teammates and friends.
“I’ve always told him to go full-bore and don’t stop,” Jesse Camacho said. “What he’s done shows that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.”
Frances Camacho expressed similar sentiments.
“Being Hispanic and coming where he came from, my son has come a long way,” she said. “We tried to instill good values in him.”
Camacho has spent the past few days watching video replays of his race at state on his laptop.
“I’ve watched it over and over,” he said.
Camacho said he is leaning toward attending UTSA on a track scholarship, but hasn’t ruled out going to Texas A&M.
“If I leave town, I’ll probably go to A&M and try to run track up there,” he said.
Meanwhile, he’ll get ready for final exams and continue watching replays of his gold-medal race.
Life is good for Johnny Camacho.