The sight of over 10,000 spectators and the presence of the best prep athletes in the state proved the perfect ingredients for greatness for 2012 Oakdale High graduate Manny Hernandez at the 94th Annual California Interscholastic Federation Track and Field Championships on June 1 and 2 at Buchanan High School in Clovis.
Hernandez soared to a six foot, 10.25 inch personal best to finish third in the event finale on Saturday.
The mark tied for the best of any jumper (prior misses determined the tiebreaker) and reset Hernandez’ previous school record in the event.
“Going to state was an atmosphere like nothing else,” Hernandez said Monday. “When you walk out and see all those people it’s incredible.”
Hernandez jumped 6-8 on Friday to tie for fourth among 32 state qualifiers and earn a trip to the next day’s top-10 final. He cleared his second jump at both 6-4 and 6-6 to start the finals and landed a heroic 6-10.25 personal best on his third and final attempt to seal a state medal.
Since two other jumpers cleared the same height with fewer prior misses, Hernandez was left to settle for third and state bronze in the ensuing medal ceremony. The ultimate state champion was Noel Frazier of California High (North Coast Section), who Hernandez bested at the Meet of Champions earlier this season.
The medal finish was a tremendous end to a terrific career for an Oakdale athlete who shined on the football field and basketball court, but truly emerged into the limelight with high jumps that landed him among the best across the state in all divisions of enrollment.
“I wasn’t even going to do track my freshman year, but one of my friends convinced me to try it,” Hernandez said. “I remember standing at the pole vault pit watching people clear the high jump bar and my friend told me to jump with him.
“I practiced jumping for the first time that day and I fell in love.”
And as Hernandez’ jumps grew in greatness, so did his fame. Suddenly, the senior was a recognized face at meets and tournaments. His leaps drew big crowds and his clearances earned uproarious applause from track and field fans.
“I was definitely well known in the area,” Hernandez said. “Everywhere I went I would hear ‘where is Manny?’ and it seemed like everywhere there was my own little fan base around to watch me.”
Hernandez didn’t disappoint his fans at state, and should gain a few more when he picks up action during the spring season of Track and Field for Modesto Junior College in 2013.