Distance phenom drops 29 year-old mark
By Christopher Hunt
photo by Tim Fulton/ArmoryTrack.com
GREENSBORO, N.C. – It looked like he smiled. He said he didn’t. But he looked like he did.
For a second, it seemed that he grinned at the gloriousness of the moment. It looked like somehow German Fernandez broke free of himself to enjoy history as he was making it.
But it was the pain.
It was the pain that gripped him and not a smile but a grit on his face because his lungs had begun to burn. His flash of teeth was the only sign of weakness, the only insight to the fact that his effort could not have possibly been as simple as it looked.
Fernandez of Riverbank, Calif., broke a 29 year-old national record, winning the 2-mile at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in 8:34.40 in one of the most anticipated scholastic races in history. His time bested a mark set by Jeff Nelson in 1979 of 8:36.3. His 3,000-meter en route mark of 7:59.43 also set a national record.
“It feels great,” Fernandez said. ‘This was another one of my goals and I accomplished it. I’ve been having a great senior season.”
He broke the 3,200 national record at the California state meet May 31, running 8:34.23 after clocking 4:00.29 the same day.
Fernandez said the national record was his priority in the race Friday even more than the win and he knew he would need to stay around 64 seconds per lap to capture it. But after some back and forth with Oregon star Luke Puskerda early on with Puskerda leading for most of the second lap, Fernandez fell behind pace and hit the mile mark in 4;19.5.
“He took the lead and slowed down and that cost me,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez bolted from there. He soon dropped Puskerda, along with Colby Lowe (Southlake, Tx.) and Robert Finnerty (Burnsville, Minn.) who had already fallen behind with two laps to go. The crowd, nothing that Fernandez was chasing a record that many of America’s best young distance stars never matched, cheered louder than at any point in the competition. Fernandez thanked them afterward.
He closed the final lap in 62.9 and the last mile in 4:15. Puskerda finished second in 8:47.06 with Lowe third in 8:47.07 and Finnerty fourth in 8;50.96.
“I was just happy I finished, he said. “It was painful the whole way. It hasn’t got to me yet but I know it’ll get to me when I get home. I’m just happy with what I did today.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.