In a striking contrast to what has largely been a cold, wet winter, it’s 65 degrees and sunshine as Eduardo Herrera stands near Madera South High School’s track on a recent afternoon after school.
His mood is fit for a virtual January day of perfection – proud, pleasing and smiling as bright as the snowcapped Sierra Nevadas clearly visible to the east.
The Fresno Bee’s two-time Runner of the Year in boys cross country reflected on a career that will go down as one of the most remarkable success stories the Central Section has known.
In any sport.
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“The doors are open,” he says.
College doors. Custom. Upscale.
Unlike his roots.
NCAA cross country power Portland is offering a guaranteed five-year scholarship valued at $250,000.
The youngest son of Mexican immigrant farm workers without high school educations, the senior with a 3.5 grade-point average will visit Cal next week and, a few days later, Portland, a private sister institution to Notre Dame and a traditional NCAA cross country force that is merely offering a guaranteed, five-year, full scholarship valued at a quarter mil – yes, $50,000 a year.
And throw in a $1,000 annual stipend to help cover personal expenses such as flights back home.
Perhaps this best explains why the 18-year-old better known as “Lalo” is beaming. The former soccer player had no intention of running distances competitively before caving to many as a freshman and following the lead of his older brother, Jose Herrera, The Bee’s Runner of the Year in 2012.
I never could have imagined what I’m doing. This is a wonderful thing for me that I never pictured. My high school career has been amazing and I’m really proud of what I’ve done, being offered full scholarships and as a son of parents who don’t have the money to pay for them.
Madera South’s Eduardo Herrera
“I never could have imagined what I’m doing,” he says. “This is a wonderful thing for me that I never pictured. My high school career has been amazing and I’m really proud of what I’ve done, being offered full scholarships and as a son of parents who don’t have the money to pay for them.”
Running on house money at the collegiate level is not an issue for Herrera, the best runner in Central Section history, a two-time section Division I champion; a three-time state top-10 finisher, including a second place this season; and an All-American thanks to a fifth-place finish in the Nike Cross Nationals in December in Portland, Ore.
All four of his high school cross country teams were section champions in a program that has won eight straight in three divisions, and his indifference to pain has wowed Madera South two-year coach and former assistant Eloy Quintana.
“With distance running,” Quintana says, “if you’re running comfortable, you’re doing it wrong; you have to run at a level of discomfort, you have to hurt, and that’s Lalo’s mentality. He’s a competitor without fear, one with the maturity to take on a challenge, and that’s why he’s so successful.”
Is this about genetics?
Did he inherit it from brother Jose? “I have no idea. I only ran with him one year. I never asked him how he felt, did he feel tired, while running the races.”
Did he inherit it from his father, also named Eduardo? “Maybe. He told me he was a cross country runner in Mexico, but he stopped (running).”
14:48.8 Central Section cross country record at Woodward Park’s 3.1-mile course by Eduardo “Lalo” Herrera
No stopping the namesake now, whose time of 14 minutes and 48.8 seconds in the CIF State Championships this season at the 3.1-mile course (5-kilometer) at Woodward Park broke the section record of 14:51 set by Buchanan’s C.J. Albertson in 2010 and is ranked 11th all-time at Woodward Park, the state’s 29-year official course.
He’ll complete his prep career this spring in track and field, where he ranks sixth and seventh all-time in the section 1,600 (4:10.13) and 3,200 meters (8:55.93), according to historian Ron Blackwood.
Herrera placed third in the state 3,200 final last June at Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“Oh goodness,” Quintana says, “he has a high probability to contend for a state title. And this is California, which says so much about his talent.”
This involves a decorated senior distance-running class also featuring state cross country champions Phillip Rocha of Arcadia (D-I) and Austin Tamagno of Brea Olinda-Brea (D-III).
“Top runners in the state often come from backgrounds where they’ve traveled for competition and their parents have paid for personal coaches since they were young,” Quintana says. “For Lalo to hold on with them and go beyond is remarkable.”
Herrera looks ahead – far ahead – and envisions a family discussion of the improbable: “In 20 years, I’ll look back and tell my kids what I’m proud of and that the outcome came from Madera South. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done.”
Boys Cross Country All-Stars: Rookie Of The Year Victor Ochoa
- School: Madera South
- He’s qualified because: Freshman placed 10th in the Central Section Division I Championship at Woodward Park’s 3.1-mile course with a time of 16 minutes and 14 seconds for the Stallions’ eighth consecutive title-winning team. He returned to the same venue nine days later and finished 57th in the CIF State D-I Championship with a time of 16:04.3 – No. 7 among state freshmen for the season in 3.1-mile races.
- For comparison’s sake: Ochoa is ahead of the pace of two-time Bee Runner of the Year and senior teammate Eduardo Herrera, who, as a freshman in 2012, placed 11th in the section at 16:12 and 89th in the state at 16:17 on the same course.
- Healthy family tree: Ochoa’s older brother, Michael, finished third in the section final at 15:48 and 39th in the state at 15.50.5. He’s a junior.
- He said it: “I’m amazed I beat (Herrera’s) freshman time. I was like, ‘Wow.’ It’s a great running program here when you look at Lalo, everything in the past, eight straight Valley titles and going to state every year. That’s amazing.” – Victor Ochoa.
- Diving into the deep end: “We put Victor in the varsity right away in a sink-or-swim method. Mentally, you have to be very careful putting a freshman in that way. Of course, he had his older brother giving him advice, but that still doesn’t replace being in the moment, being counted on. For him to hold on against the best in the state shows he’s there. He’s the future of the Madera South Stallions, he really is.” – Coach Eloy Quintana.
The Fresno Bee’s Boys Cross Country Terrific 20
- Mohammed Ali, sophomore, Avenal
- Luke Dykstra, senior, Central Valley Christian
- Stewart Fernandez, junior, Buchanan
- Tim Fitch, junior, Madera
- Hayden Hansen, sophomore, Buchanan
- Spencer Hauxhurst, sophomore, Clovis North
- Nicholas Hernandez, junior, Madera South
- Christopher Kolar, senior, Buchanan
- De’Vyd Lawson, junior, Redwood
- Jonathan Matson, senior, Corcoran
- David Mendez, senior, Monache
- Jordan Morris, junior, Clovis
- Jose Mosqueda, sophomore, Kerman
- Isaac Oceguera, senior, Dinuba
- Michael Ochoa, junior, Madera South
- Tom Pritsky, senior, Buchanan
- Ruben Reyes, junior, Reedley
- Evert Silva, junior, Fresno
- Jaden Uphoff, sophomore, Monache
- Miguel Villar, junior, Madera South
Boys Cross Country All-Stars: Coach Of The Year Eloy Quintana
- School: Madera South
- He’s qualified because: Former Clovis and Fresno Pacific runner is 2 for 2 in Central Section Division I titles and CIF State Championship top-five finishes since inheriting the program from Rich Parris, whom he had assisted for two seasons. This has extended the Stallions’ section title streak to eight years in three divisions, including the past four in D-I. And never were they more dominant at Woodward Park than this season, when they placed 1-2-3-4-10 for 20 points – missing a perfect score by five.
- You’re serious, right?: Reminded his team nearly delivered a perfect 15 in the section final, Quintana said: “That means there’s still room for improvement.”
- He said it: “My goals are the same as always: I just want the kids to be successful so it opens doors to college, they contribute positively to society and maybe come back to the community of Madera. Put focus on that and the rest will take care of itself, along with the championships that come with it. Show kids that and they’ll go through walls for you.” – Quintana.