Junior’s Preparation Pays Off at State Meet


Olivia Caggiano

Junior Isaac Hernandez pushes to the lead pack at the start of the state cross country race in Old Settler’s Park.

Olivia Caggiano, Copy Editor

Run on a hilly, looped course over a former landfill in the unpredictable Lubbock climate, Region 1 has been nicknamed the “region of death.” Conquering the rough terrain, junior Isaac Hernandez was the sole state qualifier from the Aledo cross country program, following a year that saw the entire boys team qualify. He ran a time of 16:52 to take tenth.

This year, the top three teams and top 10 individuals at each regional race qualified for the state meet in Round Rock, one less team than in previous years.

“I was nervous because I wouldn’t have a team [to compete with at state] but I was very excited that I qualified by myself because that was a personal goal,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez had two weeks of training between the regional and state races. Although the rest of the boys’ varsity team was finished with their season, they continued to wake up for chilly, early morning practices to help Hernandez prepare. 

“It was a lot of rabbit work,” Hernandez said. “So, I would have some of my teammates start in front of me and I would have to go catch them and it was just really pushing me to get better.”

The boys also met on the weekend for 10 mile long runs on the trails around Aledo. The underclassmen said it has been a good opportunity for them to learn from Hernandez and improve their speed and endurance. Several of them usually train together during the summer off-season, so these runs served as a continuation of their usual routine.

“It’ll be just two of us running or two of us with a couple guys just getting faster and doing a lot of speed work, so it’s been fun,” junior Colton Snow said.

Going into the state meet, Hernandez wanted to focus on running a sub-16 minute time and beat his time and placement from last year. 

“I got really nervous for some reason that morning,” Hernandez said. “But I calmed myself down and was like ‘there’s nothing to lose here.’”

Individual qualifiers from different schools all start in the individual box on the starting line, as opposed to a team box. Hernandez said it was odd to start the race surrounded by people he didn’t know, but it didn’t shake him. 

Hernandez had a strong start in Old Settler’s Park, pushing to the front in the first 100 meters. He held his own in the middle of the front pack, coming through the first mile in 4:39. Hernandez struggled on the second mile, but kept the pedal down, coming across the two-mile marker at 10:05. Senior Rylan Shaffer and sophomore Henry Zedler ran alongside him, outside the course markers for the last 400 meters. Hernandez crossed the finish line with an official time of 15:50.22, his best of the season, and placed 25 out of 124 runners. He improved his time on the course by seven seconds and his placement by 22 places. 

“[The race] was packed, I could always see someone in front of me,” Hernandez said. “I just tried to pick it up on mile two because that was my worst one. [At the finish] I was just relieved that it was over, it was a hard course and I was just really happy.”

With the cross country season ending, Hernandez isn’t slowing down. He has big plans for track season and is hoping to get noticed by college coaches.

“I’m really going to push my mile time because I got it pretty low when we were doing mile repeats,” Hernandez said. “And then next year I’m just going to try to keep getting better.”