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Fernandez Annihilates Record On Way To State Title
Closing out the final sprint of the 2007 State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno may have been the final glimpse of greatness that some of the few thousand German Fernandez fans may ever see. The Riverbank High senior closed out his personal chase to finish his high school career on top of all the distance runners in the State of California with the best race the 20-year-old meet has ever witnessed.

"I knew coming in that he (Fernandez) hadn't kicked over his last 800 (meters) yet," Riverbank head coach Bruce Edwards said. "With all the hundreds and hundreds of people, even thousands, yelling for him inspired him to kick when it hurt. He kicked at the end when normally he wouldn't kick. More people stayed to watch that race than I've seen ever at the end of a meet.

"People knew that there was a chance at a record."

Fernandez's effort did not disappoint any of those in attendance, setting a new course record along with a new State Meet mark as well. The Bruins' squad closed out the meet with a 13th overall finish, just five points behind Section runner-up Christian Brothers High. (See story in Sports, Page B1.)

"I wanted to run a smart race; I was going for the record," Fernandez said. "I've been looking at the record for the past two weeks, so I didn't want to start out too fast. My first mile was a little too fast, it was like a 4:28."

The phenom didn't let the blistering start upset his expected accomplishments, smashing the former record by nearly 15 seconds set by Olympic distance runner Mark Davis more than 20 years ago.

"Everyone was screaming and it really just pumped me up," Fernandez said of his record setting finish. "My last 200 (yards) you could just hear the crowd going wild. It was like you were in the Super Bowl. It was really crazy with everybody cheering for me."

As a team, Riverbank was more proud of Fernandez than any of the spectators lining the boundaries at Woodward Park. The Bruins trained, planned, and achieved as a unit throughout the season and none of that changed during the team's final race.

"We beat two teams (Christian Brothers and Bret Harte) on their courses, at their game to get to the State Meet," Edwards said of his squad's success. "We've constantly seen the desire and effort and comradeship that was on this team.

"Almost everybody on our team turned in their personal best," Edwards continued. "I am very, very proud of the kids, and they know that."

Also running with Fernandez were Chris Nunez, 17:16; Jacob Hodges, 17:21; Ben Hodges, 18:06; Octavio Vigil, 18:09, the team finishing 13th overall.

In acknowledgement of the rock star-like following Fernandez has inherited for being the best distance runner on the state's cross country scene, coach Edwards got shirts made in support of the Riverbank captain. The "Go For It German" T-shirts sold in a short time, forcing the coach to submit a follow-up order.

"He runs for records, he runs for time," Edwards explained of his prized pupil. "He runs for pride, but he also runs because he does want to put on a very good effort for the people who are watching him. He never wants to do less than the best he can because of the people watching him."

The display Fernandez put on was a thing of beauty.

The Riverbank senior strolled off with the course record as well as the State Meet record, breaking the one set in 1986 (14:38) by Davis, who went on to represent the United Sates in Olympic steeplechase competition.

"I've been doing this for 34 years," Edwards said. "And I just keep saying to myself I'm very lucky that I am getting a chance to coach somebody like German, and I'm thankful I've been coaching for so long before I got German. Because of all my years, it has helped me do things better than I would have done when I was younger.

"I'm glad I didn't have him at my early stages as a coach because I think I would have made some serious mistakes."

Edwards didn't, and now Fernandez feels he is in position to do something that no one ever dreamed he could do.

"When I was on my 12-mile run (Sunday) I was just thinking about my race and what I did," Fernandez said. "If I keep on doing this, I can go to the Olympics and bring the Gold to California ... back to my hometown."