Freshman track and field athletes are usually so far down a depth chart that head coaches rarely know their names.
That was true of thrower Emily Hernandez of Lake City. Until she caught her coach’s attention.
It was three years ago at the prestigious Pasco Invite. Hernandez was in the first of five flights in the shot put. She managed to make the finals.
“I was standing near the pit and I’m thinking ‘Holy cow, who is this kid?’” LC head coach Kelly Reed said. “I knew who she was from that day forward.”
It was the first steps in what has blossomed into a record-setting career. Hernandez qualified for state that year, followed up by taking second as a sophomore and winning a state championship last year.
Hernandez set the school record as a sophomore when she threw 38 feet, 6¾ inches at state. Last year, she broke her mark four times, capped with a toss of 43-2 at state.
She threw a season best 41-3 last Saturday at a meet in Walla Walla. She’s on the same pace as she was a year ago.
Hernandez credits four coaches for her success – Reed, LC assistant Roy Carlson, Iron Wood Throws camp director Bart Templeman and former collegiate coach Robert McKay.
“They’ve all had an impact on me,” she said. “They’ve inspired me to be a better person.”
In turn, Hernandez has inspired her coaches because of her dedication.
“She has a fantastic work ethic not only with the amount of work she puts in but with the detail,” Reed said. “At meets, her warmup is efficient. She runs, jump ropes and drills. Her warmup looks different than most throwers. She’s not there to mess around. She’s there to compete.”
Hernandez has overcome many obstacles in her life. She’s grown up in a single-parent home, raised by her mother.
“My mom plays a big part in my life,” Emily said. “She’s raised me since I was four years old. I am so blessed to have my mom. She would do anything for me.”
Michele Hernandez threw the shot when she was in high school. For years Emily carried a tattered newspaper clipping in her wallet that had her mom’s name in a track story.
“I remember thinking that I was going to try it. I threw for the first time in seventh grade,” Hernandez said.
She started working with Carlson and Templeman when she reached LC. They saw unlimited potential.
“Emily has taken advantage of all her opportunities,” Carlson said. “She has a get-it-done attitude.”
Reed calls Hernandez a Momma Bear because of how she coddles and encourages younger throwers. Her coaches believe she’d be a superb coach someday.
“She already is,” Carlson said. “Bart has taken her to lots of clinics and sent her off to work with young kids.”
“I think of her as a daughter. She’s such a kind young woman,” Templeman said. “She did her senior project on being a coach. I’d turn her loose with anyone.”
Hernandez is finding the end of her senior season much more challenging than last year. She admits she could be distracted by all the added responsibilities of the finality of her final year.
“I just have to stay focused,” she said.
She finds happiness being in the throwing ring.
“It’s a comfort place for me. It’s a home away from home,” she said.
Hernandez believes the final four weeks of the season can be memorable. She wants to defend her state title and hit 45 feet.
Templeman anticipates Hernandez extending her personal best.
“It’s very doable,” he said. “She’s going to boom one and she’s not going to know why. It’s just going to happen.”
Longtime Central Valley cross country and girls track coach and teacher Dennis McGuire, 66, is retiring.
McGuire’s 34-year teaching and coaching career was all at CV. He was a head boys and girls cross country coach for all those years, the last 17 as the girls coach, and head girls track coach for 27.
“It went fast. I still like what I’m doing,” McGuire said. “I liked the part of reaching so many kids. The individual relationships are the part I’ll miss.”
After stepping down as girls track coach, McGuire continued coaching with his successor, Geoff Arte.
“I’m going to miss him a lot,” Arte said. “A lot of people do this for the wrong reasons and he didn’t. He’s a good teacher and influencer with kids.”
Doug Pecha will replace McGuire in cross country. Arte will take over the boys cross country job, replacing Kieran Mahoney.
A field of 25 teams will attend the annual Strandberg Invitational at Central Valley on Saturday.
The meet begins with the hammer for boys and girls at 8:30. The rest of the field events and races start at 11.
Here are the top times/marks posted by area athletes last week:
Boys – Tony Pizzillo, Shadle Park (100 meter, 10.50; 200, 22.08; 400, 49.33); Michael Stacy, North Central (200, 22.84); Preston O’Neil, Ferris (800, 1:58.16); Joseph Heitman, Mead (110 hurdles, 14.92); Josh Farr, Mead (javelin, 195-4); Shamrock Campbell, Ferris (triple jump, 47-½); Cole Omlin, Cheney (high jump, 6-6); Cole Hawes, Pullman (hj, 6-6); Nate Burch, Coeur d’Alene (110h, 14.38); Liam Bracken, Republic (hj, 6-4).
Girls – Anna Rodgers, Lewis and Clark (200, 24.94); Alvanique Smith, Mead (400, 58.65); Anna Pecha, Central Valley (800, 2:16.98); Zella Conley, Mead (100h, 14.76); Hailey Leeking, NC (shot put, 40-3½; discus, 131-2); Samara Nelson, CV (discus, 133-6); Kathleen Horn, Gonzaga Prep (javelin, 137-1); Hailey Christopher, CV (hj, 5-5); Annika Briggs, Ferris (hj, 5-4); Cierra Graham, LC (pole vault, 11-0); Kate White, Mead (tj, 36-2½); Mayyi Mahama, Pullman (shot, 41-0); Sophia Van Wormer, Cheney (pv, 12-0); Lillian Kirry, Chewelah (300h, 46.03); Hana Hill, Lakeside (pv, 12-6); Klaire Mitchell, Lake City (100h, 15.50; 300h, 45.40); Brooke McClurkin, CdA (300h, 46.80); Melody Kempton, Post Falls (hj, 5-5); Emily Hernandez, Lake City (shot, 41-3); Mackenzie Morris, Post Falls (pv, 11-0).
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