The carrot for Madera South High cross country runner Eduardo Herrera to chase was personal — older brother Jose.
"My motivation," says Eduardo, known as "Lalo" by his coaches and teammates.
Only a year ago, Jose Herrera — now at Long Beach State — set a Madera South record by clocking 15 minutes, 36 seconds at Woodward Park's 3.1-mile course.
He went on to win the Central Section Division I title at 15:37 for a team championship as well and was named The Bee's 2012 Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Eduardo, meanwhile, was observing with reverence while running exceptionally as a freshman — a team fifth-best 16:12 in placing 11th in the section meet.
But the catch: "He really looks up to his brother," Madera South coach Rich Parris says. "He respects him, totally. But sometimes Lalo has to be reminded that he's a great runner himself."
Today, Eduardo Herrera needs little convincing after blowing past his brother's best with a 15:21 at Woodward while placing seventh in the state, running 15:23 while leading the Stallions to a repeat section crown and — yes — matching Jose as The Bee's 2013 Runner of the Year.
Never have siblings turned this cross country double in consecutive years by The Bee.
The brothers made the exchange before the season.
Eduardo: "Jose, hey man, I think I'm going to go for your records, that way I'll get motivated to run fast."
Jose: "Go for it."
Parris is touched by it all: "I think it's been difficult for Lalo to accept that his brother wants him to be better. And that's really neat."
Eduardo Herrera's record-breaking performance prompted yet another recent embrace with his brother, who could be seen this fall at the major meets at Woodward.
Jose: "Ah, you're faster than me already, and you're only a sophomore."
Eduardo: "Sorry, dude."
And Parris doesn't apologize for converting an accomplished soccer player into a state-class distance runner: "Lalo wasn't sure or didn't accept the fact he could do something pretty phenomenal in cross country. It's exciting to see where he is now. There's a lot more to that kid than any of us realized."
And yet so much remains in front of the 15-year-old.
Only Stockdale senior Blake Haney (15:02), who will join an NCAA running factory at Oregon, beat Herrera in the section D-I final.
And only Arcadia sophomore Phillip Rocha, fifth in 15:18, finished ahead of Herrera among non-seniors in the state D-I championship.
Hence, the possibilities.
A sub-15 minute time at Woodward?
A D-I state title, which only Foothill's Chris Schwartz (15:13, 2007), Clovis' J.J. Duke (15:26, 2000) and Fresno's Michael Kasahun (15:16, 1996) have delivered from the Central Section in the 27-year history of the meet?
"Lalo's still testing it, he's still trying to find himself," Parris says. "He's just starting to tap into his ability level. It's evolved pretty quickly, but I think he's a year away from really making some noise. This is going to be fun."
Runner of the Year: Eduardo Herrera
School: Madera South Grade: Sophomore
Setting the pace: Followed older brother Jose, The Bee's 2012 Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, by placing second in the Central Section Division I race in 15 minutes, 23 seconds on Woodward Park's 3.1-mile course. He was seventh at the state D-I final in a school-record 15:21 at the same venue. That's 16th-best all-time for a sophomore at Woodward, the section and state home course for 27 years. He's also helped Madera South win the past two section D-I titles, placing 11th as a freshman at 16:12. The Stallions were second in the state this season.
Coach says: "He's young in terms of experience but doesn't train like it and doesn't race like it. And what he ran at state shows he's not affected by a high-level meet. He's done things in workouts I haven't seen anybody do. And he only wants to get faster."
— Madera South's Rich Parris
The reporter can be reached at email@example.com or @beepreps on Twitter.