By Sean Maguire
Oklahoma State Media Relations
Winning the Big 12's individual cross country title, breaking the junior world record in the indoor one-mile run and placing first at the USA Cross Country Championships are attention getters. Especially if you're a freshman like Oklahoma State’s German Fernandez.
Perhaps the biggest headline-generator for Fernandez thus far was his blistering time of 3:56.50 in the mile set on Jan. 24 at the Razorback Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark.
Cowboys coach Dave Smith was impressed.
"He looked like a million bucks - looked smooth as ever," Smith said. "He ran a really smart, intelligent race. He sat back and just waited until about 400 to go and put a move on the guy who was leading. He just blew by him and looked like a million bucks. It was unbelievable.”
Fernandez's late burst overcame last year's 1,500-meter NCAA runner-up Dorian Ulrey of Arkansas. Fernandez’s performance was made even more outstanding by the fact that it was the first indoor competition of his career, as well as his first race since suffering a leg injury at the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Championships in November.
"We just went out there to have fun," Fernandez said. "That was my first indoor meet ever, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I feel pretty good. I just wanted to go out and run a good time and run conservatively and run smart and it went my way. I didn’t expect to break the record at all. That's the best time I've run in my life. I couldn’t believe it at first."
Fernandez has been surprising people and setting records for most of his running career. long before he arrived at Oklahoma State. His list of accomplishments prior to his time in Stillwater is a long one.
Two examples: When Fernandez ran for Riverbank High in Riverbank, Calif., he was named the 2007-08 Gatorade Boys Cross Country California Runner of the Year. In 2008 he was a Nike Outdoor National Champion in the two-mile, Gatorade National Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year, and USATF Cross Country Junior Nationals Champion.
On Feb. 7, 2009, Fernandez defended his crown at USATF Cross Country Junior Nationals finishing the 8,000-meter race in 23:20, and improving on his 2008 championship time at the event by nearly one minute.
Fernandez credits all the early success in his collegiate career to the Cowboys coaching staff.
"Without a doubt, the number one reason is coach Dave Smith,” Fernandez said. “He has really made the transition easy for me. He's not putting a lot of pressure on me because he is looking at long-term goals. He wants me to continually become a better runner. I told him that my goal was to be on the Olympic team in 2012, and he is helping me achieve that.”
Fernandez also attributed hard work to maintaining his success after returning from his injury.
“The injury really brought me down,” recalled Fernandez. “I think the rest was really good for me mentally and physically. That just pushed me to work harder. I know I’m pretty talented, but you still have to put in hard work to be the best.”
With Fernandez’s work ethic, positive attitude and obvious talent, don’t be surprised to see him running for the red, white and blue in 2012.