For all of Eduardo Herrera’s accomplishments as a distance runner at Madera South High School – and he’s in the mix with Stockdale’s Blake Haney (class of 2014) and Reedley’s Peter Romero (1967) as the most distinguished in Central Section history – it’s never been about him.
Not to “Lalo,” at least.
That’s the nickname commonly attached to the section cross country record holder, six-time section cross country and track and field titlist, two-time state runner-up and, now, The Fresno Bee’s Athlete of the Year in boys track and field after twice earning the honor in cross country.
The 18-year-old senior is packing his bags for an approximate four-year, $200,000 scholarship package to one of the nation’s elite distance-running programs, Colorado, in addition to taking with him a GPA of 3.7 and glowing personal accounts from family, coaches, teammates and his school.
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Guaranteed, he will not arrive in Boulder in six weeks displaying a placard of individual accomplishments and glory. He’ll leave that at home, as he always has, remarkably, given his roots in Central Valley agriculture.
Eduardo Herrera is the same kid today as he was when no one knew him on campus as a freshman. He’s always been willing to sacrifice himself to make a difference for other people.
Madera South track and field coach Eloy Quintana
“Humbleness,” says Madera South coach Eloy Quintana when asked what has defined Herrera’s four-year prep career. “I mean, with all his success, with all his accolades, running in (national championship meets at Portland and Boston) – and when you’re a kid from Madera, you have to do a little extra to get yourself to this point – this (generally) gets to a kid’s head; any kid is going to feel bigger than the world. But Eduardo Herrera is the same kid today as he was when no one knew him on campus as a freshman. He’s always been willing to sacrifice himself to make a difference for other people.”
The sacrifice for Herrera, Quintana estimates, includes a combined 4,000 training miles per year in cross country and track and field.
There’s no mistaking Herrera’s ultimate goal, says Quintana, and it was never about winning section and state individual prep titles or, ultimately, doing the same on the Pacific-12 Conference and NCAA levels at Colorado, a five-time NCAA men’s cross country team champion: “Taking his parents out of poverty. He’s always told me that.”
Herrera reaffirms this in an interview this week while Mom and Dad, Maria and Eduardo Sr., are doing what they’ve always done to support a family of six – working the fields as farm laborers. And, on this day, none too unusual, in 100-degree heat.
“My dream is about getting my parents out of the fields,” Lalo says, “because I know that’s a hassle and a struggle. My goal, going to college on a full-ride scholarship, was to make sure my parents didn’t have to support me financially the way they did as I was a kid and in high school. I just want to support them – that’s the major goal for me, overall.”
That’s in concert with his older brother, Jose Herrera, a Bee 2012 Runner of the Year in cross country, who’s on track to graduate from Long Beach State.
“They want to take care of their parents from here on,” says Quintana. “Lalo doesn’t talk about Olympics or anything like that; I know he wants to be the best runner he can in college, get his degree, get a good job and take care of his parents.”
Mastering the Masters
Herrera was the highest-scoring athlete (28 points), boys or girls, in this season’s section Masters finals by winning the 1,600 and 3,200 and placing second in the 800.
He joined Buchanan’s Fernando Cabada (1999-2000), Foothill’s Chris Schwartz (2008-09) and Haney (2013-14) as the only runners in section history to sweep the 1,600 and 3,200 in consecutive years.
6 Career Central Section individual titles in distance running by Herrera
Herrera ran on Madera South teams that won four consecutive section D-I titles and placed seventh, second, third and fourth in the state.
He lists as his career highlight the CIF State Cross Country Championships as a sophomore, when the Stallions placed second to Arcadia in D-I at Woodward Park.
“That’s most rewarding to me,” he says. “I’ll definitely not forget that. The joy in my teammates’ and coaches’ faces was incredible.”
Besides setting the section cross country record of 14 minutes, 48.8 seconds at Woodward’s 3.1-mile course in late November, Herrera leaves ranked Nos. 2 and 7 in section track and field history in the 1,600 (4:03.57) and 3,200 (8:55.01), and his 800 time of 1:53.85 this season was No. 19 in the state.
Lalo leaves with one void – a state individual title. But oh the effort ...
He stalked Arcadia’s Phillip Rocha for most of the D-I cross country final on that Nov. 28 morning at Woodward. And Herrera set the pace in the state 1,600 final on a blistering June 4 evening at Buchanan before Great Oak-Temecula’s Isaac Cortes overcame him in the final 120 meters. Cortes, who would also win the 800, clocked 4:04.62, Herrera 4:05.63.
Still, Quintana considers it a golden performance by Herrera: “Eduardo’s no coward. He’s willing to take the lead and make it a man’s race. That’s why I consider him a state champion in that 1,600 no matter what. He made it into a competitive man’s race, and that’s why those boys ran fast.”
Now on to Colorado and into the waiting arms of veteran coach Mark Wetmore and, among his assistants, Billy Nelson, a former distance star from Taft who recruits the Central Valley.
Clearly, based on Eduardo’s performance, he was one of the best in the state of California, which says a lot because of all of the talent in the state. His performances also cemented him as one of the best in the country.
University of Colorado assistant coach and former Taft distance star Billy Nelson
Nelson, like Quintana – like any others remotely associated with Herrera – trumpets Lalo in equal parts as a runner and person.
“First and foremost,” Nelson says, “it’s results that we notice. And, clearly, based on Eduardo’s performance, he was one of the best in the state of California, which says a lot because of all of the talent in the state. His performances also cemented him as one of the best in the country.
“But as the recruiting process goes on, it becomes more about the person than the athlete. And the top guys on our team were asking about him after he left his recruiting visit here. He’s so humble, so talkative, he immediately hit it off with our team. We contacted him after the first (NCAA) signing period, and he hadn’t signed.
“Lucky for us.”
Outstanding Track Event Performer: Charles Williams
He’s qualified because: Sir Charles departs to play running back at UNLV on scholarship as one of the most accomplished athletes in school history. The Fresno Bee’s Offensive Player of the Year in football swept the Central Section Masters sprints, became Bullard’s first state sprint medalist (third, 200) and placed eighth in the state in the 100. His 21.35 time in the CIF State Championships preliminaries is No. 9 all time in the section, according to section track and field historian Ron Blackwood, who provided historical data for The Bee’s All-Star team. In addition to winning the Masters 100 and 200, Williams led team-winning 400 and 1,600 relays, accounting for 25 of the Knights’ 59 points – second to Buchanan’s 81. He closed his prep career by scoring the first touchdown in City’s 27-0 win last week in the City/County Football All-Star Game at Clovis’ Lamonica Stadium.
Co-Outstanding Field Event Performer: McKay Johnson
School: Clovis North
He’s qualified because: Add a Fresno Bee Most Improved honor to the 2016 list of bling, and he’d surely be the winner. He closed his junior season in 2015 respectably, placing fourth and fifth in the Masters discus and shot put and finishing with personal bests of 158 feet, 11 inches and 52-1 1/2 in those events. Respectability found excellence this season, as Johnson earned a scholarship to Cal. He won the section (64-4 3/4) and placed third in the state (60-7 1/4) in the shot put and fourth in the section (188-10) and state (181-10) in the discus. His personal bests of the 64-4 3/4 in the discus and 188-10 in the discus are Nos. 7 and 9 all time in the section, according to Blackwood.
Co-Outstanding Field Event Performer: Jacob Wilson
He’s qualified because: For all of Buchanan’s success in boys track and field – seven Central Section team titles in the past eight years – never had the Bears delivered a throwing medalist (top six in shot put or discus) at the CIF State Championships until Wilson filled that blank this season. Twice. He placed third in the discus and fourth in the shot put, and closed the season with lifetime bests of 195-1 and 63-5 1/2 in the events. The discus throw ranked 15th nationally for the season, ninth all time in the section and No. 2 all time for a section junior behind Bakersfield’s Jeff Buckey (210-1, 1991). Wilson also placed first and second in the section Masters discus and shot put this season after going first and third as a sophomore.
Boys Track and Field Mean Fifteen
- T.J. Packard, senior, Central (100/200/400 relay/LJ)
- Mohmoud Adams, junior, Bullard (200/400/relays)
- Bryon Williams, senior, Sunnyside (400)
- Evert Silva, junior, Fresno (800/1,600/3,200)
- Miguel Villar, junior, Madera South (1,600/3,200)
- De’Vyd Lawson, junior, Redwood (800/1,600/3,200)
- Paramveer Chohan, senior, Buchanan (110 HH/300 IH/relays)
- Jacob Veres, junior, Clovis North (HJ)
- Jahni Newhauser, senior, El Diamante (HJ)
- Zach Bethel, senior, Clovis West (PV)
- Griffin Carter, senior, Buchanan (PV)
- Emmitt Brooks, senior, Kingsburg (LJ)
- Seth Brooks, senior, Kingsburg (TJ)
- Jonah Wilson, junior, Clovis (SP, discus)
- A.J. Hans, senior, Central (SP, discus)