German Fernandez has moved into that rarefied air where it isn't just local pundits talking about his year.
He's being watched by track and field fans, coaches and writers from across the country. There are lengthy discussions on online messageboards concerning his workouts, races and future. But when Fernandez was asked to talk about his year, he kept it pretty simple:
"It was a dream season," he said.
Fernandez, a recent Riverbank High graduate, had a season that may never be matched by another high school runner. He didn't lose a race, turned in several of the fastest times in the country this year and set three national high school records.
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Piggybacking the cross country award he won in the fall, Fernandez is The Bee's 2008 boys track and field athlete of the year.
He's gone beyond the Stanislaus District. Fernandez was named the Gatorade California Boys Track and Field High School Athlete of the Year last week.
Fernandez stole the show at the CIF State Track and Field Championships when he won the 1,600-meter run in 4 minutes, .29 seconds, about half a second off the national record. Two hours later, he set a national record in the 3,200 when he won in 8:34.23.
And last weekend, at the Nike Outdoor National Championships in Greensboro, N.C., Fernandez broke the 29-year-old national record in the 2-mile, winning in 8:34.4. He also broke the national record in the 3,000 meters en route to his 2-mile win.
"It still amazes me, what has happened," said Fernandez, who will run for Oklahoma State University next season. "I don't want to stop here. I want to keep improving, keep getting better."
When asked what he'll remember most, he said it's a tough decision. In the fall, he smashed the course record at Woodward Park in Fresno in the state cross country championships, so he has four prestigious records. But for Fernandez, he'll remember his first two the most.
"That cross country race was pretty cool," he said. "And I'll always remember the state meet."
Following his victory in the 3,200, most of the crowd rose to its feet, cheering on Fernandez while he took the victory lap reserved for those who break the national record.
"It's a feeling I've never had before," he said. "It touched me. It's something I'll always have."
He's the top high school distance runner to come out of the Stanislaus District. He turned in one of the most impressive seasons by a distance runner this country has seen.
And considering he's only run competitively for three years, the best might be yet to come.
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.