Riverbank's Fernandez sets national record in winning California track titles

Appreciative crowd sees Riverbank senior set records in 2 races

June 1, 2008 

SPORTS RUN-CIF 3 CC

Riberbank's German Fernandez competes in the Boy's 3200 meter run during the finals of the 2008 CIF State Track and Field Championships at Falcon Stadium at Cerritos College in Norwalk, California, Saturday, May 31, 2008. Fernanadez set a N.F.H.S. National record in the 3200 meter run with a time of 8:34.23. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Contra Costa Times/MCT)

JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO — MCT

NORWALK -- The majority of the crowd of 10,712 at Cerritos College rose as one, chanting his name:

"GERMAN! GERMAN! GERMAN!"

Following his history-making double victory at the CIF State Track and Field Championships on Saturday, German Fernandez was worthy of the praise.

Fernandez, a Riverbank High senior, won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs in front of the large crowd, setting two state meet records -- and one national record -- in the process.

While his victory in the 1,600 in a state-meet record 4 minutes, .29 seconds was eye-opening, his national-record 8:34.23 in the 3,200 about two hours later stunned everybody in the stadium.

"For him to do that 3,200 after his first race, just amazing," said his coach, John Vizcaino. "People were telling me it might be the best distance-double ever by a high school kid in the nation."

Joining Fernandez on the medal podium were three more Stanislaus District athletes:

Beyer senior Kendall Morris was fifth in the discus with a throw of 149 feet, 3 inches. She entered the finals as the No. 3 seed but couldn't match her preliminary throw of 152-1.

Central Valley senior Latrisha Jordan set her third consecutive personal best in the 300 hurdles, placing fifth in 42.4. Jordan is the first athlete from her school to medal in the state meet.

Modesto senior Matt Maldonado placed fifth in the 1,600 in 4:13.85. Maldonado battled with the rest of the field throughout his race and was sixth in the final turn before making a last-second pass.

The day, however, belonged to Fernandez, who took charge from the beginning of the 1,600 and never let go. He jumped out to a fast lead and was at sub-4-minute pace after three laps.

"We were talking 4:02, 4:03," Fernandez said. "But I felt pretty good, so I kept running."

As he crossed the finish line, he cramped up in both legs, stumbling to the track. But it didn't affect his second run.

"The trainer massaged them, and I got enough rest," Fernandez said.

Fernandez and his coaches didn't talk too much about a specific time in the second race.

"This is the state meet. You have to give everything you have," Fernandez said. "It's amazing to me, what I just did. I can't believe it."

When he crossed the line and the time showed his national record, the crowd let loose with an audible gasp, followed by a standing ovation. And Fernandez gave it right back. As he took the victory lap reserved for those who set national records, he high-fived fans, grabbing some people in hugs. One person gave him a bright orange shirt, which he put on. It said, "Tank of gas: $100. Two meals: $30. Watching German make history: PRICELESS!"

"The crowd played so much into it," Fernandez said. "It was just crazy."

His coach agreed.

"The crowd was awesome," said Vizcaino, who graduated from Riverbank in 2002 and ran for the cross country and track teams. "They got behind him and kept cheering for him. They made me want to run, too."

After several media interviews, Fernandez walked off the track and into the warmup area to the south of the stadium, where countless people waited for him. They took pictures, asked for autographs and cheered again.

"Some people told me that was the best race they'd ever seen," Fernandez said. "I didn't know them or anything like that. That's when it hit me, what I just did."

What's next for Fernandez? He said he plans to compete in the junior national championships in Columbus, Ohio, on June 20-21, where he'll compete only in the 3,200, "with fresh legs."

But as far as today goes? He has to be at work. He's a host at Applebee's in Riverbank, and he has the evening shift tonight.

"Hey, I have to make money," he joked.

Morris was coming off a personal-best throw of 152-1 in Friday's preliminaries. But unlike the first day, she watched other throwers turn out personal bests. Her best throw, 149-3, was good for fifth.

"It's disappointing," she said. "I would have liked to do a little better. I did hit 150 (feet), so I'm pretty happy with that. But I really wanted to hit 160 this year."

Instead, the Cal-bound Morris will shoot for that at Berkeley.

"I'm excited to be going to Cal," Morris said. "I guess now I'm officially training for college."

Jordan was the No. 8 seed going into her race and drew Lane 2. While the seed wasn't great, her lane assignment worked out fine. She passed three runners in the turn and appeared to be closing the gap on the leaders when they hit the finish line.

"I did as well as I could," Jordan said. "It would have been nice to place higher, but fifth in the state isn't too bad. Plus, I came in here as the 19 seed, so that's a big improvement."

Maldonado, however, was thrilled with his medal.

"I got the place. That was pretty important to me," he said. "I had such a big (personal best) yesterday, I knew it was going to be tough to do it again."

But he came within a second of his personal record, and he knew he could compete.

"Taking second in my heat was a big confidence builder," he said.

After his race, he met with Modesto coaches Brian Heese and Arlen Peters and grabbed them in hugs.

"I owe a lot to those guys," Maldonado said. "They had a plan for me, and it worked perfectly.

"I got the medal."

Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at wdeboard@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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