Runner up honors for the Male Athlete of the Year in Oakdale were:
Stefan Aguilar – football, baseball
Justin Martin – football, basketball, baseball
Ryan Jones - golf
The only thing better than one Hernandez is two.
On April 23 of 1994, Sal and Dana Hernandez gifted the world with the birth of their twin sons Marcus and Manny, a duo that would go on to deliver two of the most dynamic careers in Oakdale High sports history.
Both thrilled local sports fans during the 2011-12 school year with tremendous efforts on the football field, basketball court and high jump pit.
The identical twins made it impossible to garner any distinction between their successes, but made for any easy selection as the 2011-12 Oakdale Leader co-Male Athletes of the Year.
“Athletically, they both were given tremendous gifts,” Oakdale football coach Trent Merzon said. “They epitomize what we want from Oakdale’s multiple sport athletes. They both excelled in different areas and had phenomenal careers.”
The pair gave Merzon devout efforts during four seasons with the football program. They led Oakdale to the Sac-Joaquin Section finals in 2010 and 2011. Marcus (running back/linebacker) was the Valley Oak League MVP in 2011 and an all-section honoree while Manny landed first team All-VOL status at defensive back after the same season.
Their exploits lit up The Corral more than the stadium lights.
“I definitely am going to miss coming out on Friday nights with thousands and thousands of people cheering for you.” Manny said.
“Coming out of the locker room before those games — our emotions were wild,” Marcus added.
Marcus was the centerpiece of Oakdale’s Wing-T offense that featured workhorse like rushes behind his offensive line.
He was fast, powerful and terrific when Oakdale needed it most. He scored three touchdowns and ran for 115 yards against Casa Roble in the Division III semifinal as a senior and scorched the Rams for 121 yards and four scores in the semifinal game his junior year.
“Marcus did everything we asked him to do in the program and was the focal point of our offense,” Merzon said. “He showed up for every single game and he delivered in the biggest moments.”
Manny didn’t have the same offense prowess as his brother, but provided lock-down coverage his senior year as Oakdale’s No. 1 defensive back. He was often tasked with the difficulty of covering the opponent’s top talent and he did it well.
“Manny was that big corner that everybody loved to have,” Merzon said. “Anytime you can throw out a 6 foot, 1 inch corner who can high jump 6-10, it’s going to be a tremendous advantage. He had a great year for us.”
When the football season ended, both departed for Oakdale’s basketball program, where Marcus started since he was a sophomore. Manny came into his own with thrilling dunks and stout defense his senior year, giving both the prestige of being tremendous weapons for Oakdale hoops coach, Jeremy Fields.
“They are very good athletes, very dedicated to their sports,” Fields said. “For Manny to be a three sport athlete for four years and Marcus be a two sport athlete for four years really consumed a lot of their time.
“I knew them as they grew up and they were so competitive with each other, which we would see all year in practice. It’s amazing what they accomplished throughout their high school careers.”
The boys basketball team didn’t see the same type of success as the football program, but Manny and Marcus played key roles in Oakdale’s run to back-to-back Oakdale Rotary Classic Tournament runner-up placements and competitive seasons in the ultra-tough VOL.
“They hated to lose, and that’s something you want kids to have,” Fields said. “They worked hard making sure they could do what they could to not lose, whether it is a game, practice or drill.”
Marcus ended each year with basketball, but Manny joined the track and field program for four seasons in the spring. His last, a stunning effort for the Mustangs in the high jump pit, was one of Oakdale’s best ever.
The standout talent broke a 27-year-long high jump record and landed a 6-10¼ mark to place third at the state meet.
“Just to break it, it felt like I achieved something in high school,” Manny said.
Hernandez won the Stanislaus County Meet, the Modesto JC invitational, the Sacramento Meet of Champions, the VOL, the D IV-V finals and flew to a SJS Masters championship. His 6-10¼ was the top mark of any athlete at the state meet, but prior misses forced him to settle for third. It was a tremendous year for a jumper who maxed at 6-3 as a junior.
“His technique that he had been taught finally came together as a senior,” Oakdale track coach Dave Bacigalupi said.
“That came together with his strength and ability and finally confidence.”
Manny will continue his track career at Modesto Junior College, where his goal is the 7-5 school record. Marcus will also be at MJC, studying to improve his grades while he competes with the highly touted Pirates football program.