BOZEMAN — When Angellica Street arrived at Texas A&M last fall, her goal was to compete in this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. The javelin thrower has barely competed since.
Street, a 2020 Columbia Falls graduate who owns the all-class state girls javelin record, recently transferred from A&M to Montana State after a difficult year in College Station, Texas.
The main cause of Street’s struggles was her coach Juan De La Garza, she told 406mtsports.com Monday. De La Garza put Street on a strict conditioning program that damaged her mental health and triggered an eating disorder, she said.
She’s optimistic her track and field experience will be better at MSU.
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“I didn’t know if I was going to go back to college because of my experience,” Street said. “I made up my mind that Jennifer Allen, the (MSU throws) coach, was probably the right fit for me.”
De La Garza has coached since 1984 and has been in his current role at NCAA Division I Texas A&M since 1991. Sixty-five of his athletes have earned all-America honors and three have competed in the Olympics, including Maggie Malone, the 12th-ranked women’s javelin thrower in the world. Malone will compete in the Olympic finals on Friday.
De La Garza’s track record attracted Street to A&M, but she quickly realized he “wasn’t the right fit” for her, she said.
De La Garza told Street that she would need to lose about 30 pounds before she could even practice javelin, and he wanted her to drop the weight fast, she said.
“I’m Samoan. My ethnicity, we are built different. Our bones are structurally bigger, and our metabolisms don’t work well,” Street said. “I feel like he was trying to duplicate us to have exactly what he had in the past because he has a thrower (Malone) — she’s actually in the Olympics right now — and she’s tall, skinny, and all his throwers are built like that, every single one of them. He thought that he should do the same thing to me.”
De La Garza’s demands led to anxiety, Street said, and caused her bulimia to come back after it had been gone for a year. She brought up these issues to De La Garza and others at Texas A&M, and they told her “that I just need to get home, get better and I’ll be fine,” she added.
“After that, they told us to keep them updated,” Street said. “I tried to text the coaches and stuff, but there was no response. It’s almost like I got cut off once they knew that there were mental health issues happening.”
Through a spokesperson, Texas A&M denied Street’s claims.
“We were made aware of these allegations; they were found to be without merit, and we wish Angellica all the best,” A&M said in a statement.
An A&M spokesperson didn’t respond to questions about how the school determined the allegations were without merit, if De La Garza put Street through a conditioning/weight loss program, or how anyone at A&M responded when Street brought her issues to their attention.
Street saw a psychiatrist at A&M who recommended she return to Montana, she said. She entered the transfer portal in the spring, and several schools expressed interest. MSU, which recruited Street in high school, was the only Montana school to extend a scholarship offer to her this time, and she gladly accepted.
Being close to home was hardly the only reason Street chose the Bobcats. She admired Allen’s coaching ability and sensed that Allen was sympathetic to her mental health and bulimia struggles.
“The first thing I told her was I have an eating disorder, and she completely understood,” Street said. “She just made me feel comfortable. She didn’t blow it off. She talked about the whole thing. And then she told me about what they do for lifting and all that, so I feel a lot better than I did when I was going to Texas A&M.”
Street set the Montana girls javelin record with a throw of 156 feet, 11 inches at the 2019 Class A meet. She earned Montana Gatorade girls track athlete of the year honors in 2019 and 2020.
Allen was thrilled to land Street, who she described as “naturally a great thrower” with “a cannon for an arm” and a strong work ethic. Allen is not concerned about Street’s lack of reps this past year, and she believes her program will provide the strong team environment Street has craved.
“We plan to support her and give her access to any services she needs around that. I just appreciate how open and honest she is about her strengths and about her weaknesses,” Allen told 406mtsports.com Tuesday. “You never want a kid to have that horrible experience, but she’s going to be a better athlete because of that experience.”
Street still has her sights set on the Olympics, perhaps as soon as the 2024 Games in Paris. But after her turbulent time at Texas A&M, her main focuses right now are short term.
“I practice once in a while, but I don’t have that same oomph. I don’t know what it’s like to have competition,” Street said. “Just see how it goes and if I can get my groove back with the jav.”
Email Victor Flores at victor.flor[email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @VictorFlores406