Riverbank's Fernandez to shoot for state meet distance double

FERNANDEZ: Competition stiff in both events

05/29/2008 3:35 AM

05/29/2008 12:32 PM

The German Fernandez Show continues this weekend, as the distance running wunderkind will compete in the CIF State Track and Field Championships at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

It will be the Riverbank High senior's final high school meet in California.

Fernandez is gunning for something special at the state meet: He'll attempt to become the first California runner in 14 years to win the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.

It isn't out of the question. Fernandez is the national leader in both events.

Wearing a new, all-white uniform at last week's Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships, Fernandez won the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 7.62 seconds. That was just off his national-best pace of 4:05.57. And in the 3,200, he cruised to a national-best 8:45.08, crossing the line to a standing ovation from the crowd.

It wasn't just an impressive double for Fernandez; it was a test to see if he could compete in both events at the state meet.

"I had to see if I was going to get enough rest," Fernandez said. "It was a big question in my mind: Was I going to double at state?"

He has decided to go for it. The last runner to win both events was San Diego's Mebrahtom Keflezighi, who won an Olympic silver medal in the marathon in 2004 in Athens.

Fernandez hopes for similar conditions as those at Sacramento's Hughes Stadium for the Masters meet, and he should get them. The forecast in Norwalk calls for a high of 73 degrees and a low of 59.

Masters "was perfect weather," Fernandez said. "To get it again will be nice. It's one of those things where we're just going to have to see what I can do."

He's been impressive.

It's the shorter race of the two — the 1,600 — where he'll find his toughest competition. Raul Arcos (Corona), Brad Surh (Carlmont of San Jose) and Tyler Valdes (Dana Hills) are within four seconds of Fernandez's time last week.

His toughest competition could come from University City junior Mac Fleet, who has run a 1:50 800 this year. That speed is something Fernandez may not be able to match, but it's also unknown if Fleet can keep up a torrid pace for four laps.

Historically, Fernandez has run away early in the 1,600. But he may have company with this quality field.

"When I'm out there, I just try to put everything that's going on aside," Fernandez said. "I tune it all out and just concentrate on running."

He does hear one thing, though: the crowd.

"I can't tune them out," Fernandez said. "They push me. I want to go faster for them."

He'll have a much larger crowd rooting for him Friday and Saturday, but he's holding off any wild predictions.

"At Masters, I felt like I was going to do something special as soon as I got there," he said. "Hopefully, I'll feel the same (this weekend). But my plan is, I'm just going to run and see what happens."

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

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