Four years ago, Jose Herrera was earning buckets of individual gold medals, team championships and headlines as a cross country runner at Madera South High, and little brother was taking notice.
Eduardo “Lalo” Herrera was three grades behind, playing soccer and had no intention of advancing the family torch in distance running.
Yet Lalo, in middle school, began launching 4-mile runs in his southeast Madera neighborhood at sunrise and sunset.
Coming Friday: Andy Boogaard’s preview of the 10 state-championship races
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Why was it that he attempted to pull this off inconspicuously, even outside of his brother’s eye?
“Because he’d tell his coach I was running and to get me to come out,” said Lalo, a traditional Hispanic nickname for “Eduardo”. “I didn’t like running, honestly; there was no point of it.”
Little brother, in review, took it a step further: “I hated it.”
Yet he continued to run: “I was seeing Jose accomplishing big things, seeing him front page in the newspaper and thinking, ‘Hey, that’s pretty cool,’ but I was running only to stay in shape for soccer. I had no image of running cross country and track.”
Ultimately caving to the recruitment of older brother and then-Madera South coach Rich Parris, Lalo Herrera, as a freshman, joined the cross country team a couple weeks into the 2012 season.
That changed, but his attitude didn’t. “We’d run 10 miles,” Herrera said. “It was insane; that was too much. I hated it. Jose told me, ‘Look what we’ve done; you could be there someday.’ ”
And he is.
I thought: ‘I do have something in me; I could be someone great.’ And that’s when it changed.
Madera South senior Eduardo Herrera on the moment his cross country career took off
Herrera is a two-time Central Section champion. He has blown away his brother’s school records. He’s become a state star. He carries a 3.6 grade-point average and will have multiple college opportunities.
Above all, loathe has found love.
“I kept training, training and training,” he said. “And I kept getting faster, faster and faster. I thought, ‘I do have something in me; I could be someone great.’ And that’s when it changed. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work hard and be the best. I love it.”
As a freshman, he placed 11th in the section and was the state’s third-fastest rookie in D-I.
“Right away, he showed great potential,” Madera South coach Eloy Quintana said. “From there, it was history.”
Herrera placed fourth in the CIF State Cross Country Championships last season in Division I and Saturday, as a senior, will make another run at gold at Woodward Park – his final appearance at the home of all 29 state meets.
His team, likewise, is a legitimate threat to hoist a championship plaque.
I can’t imagine. And if we do, I won’t forget, it will be with me forever. It’s a crazy picture.
Madera South senior Eduardo Herrera on the possibility of sweeping state D-I individual and team cross country titles Saturday at Woodward Park.
And for all the cross country achievements at a school in but its ninth year of existence – eight consecutive Central Section team titles in three divisions, including the past four straight in D-I, and state third- and second-place D-I finishes in the past two seasons – never have the Stallions won a state individual or team championship.
In any sport.
Much less one in the same season.
“I can’t imagine,” Herrera said. “And if we do, I won’t forget, it will be with me forever. It’s a crazy picture.”
Yet a realistic one on a day the Stallions will arrive ranked third in the state’s D-I by PrepCalTrack.com behind defending champion Great Oak-Temecula and Dana Hills-Dana Point.
“It’s possible,” said Herrera, whose D-I boys race is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. in forecast 50-degree temperatures and a crowd of more than 10,000. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it’s going to be possible. It’s just going to be a great day on Saturday.”
Pursuing section record, and more
Herrera is confident he can torch Woodward Park’s 3.1-mile course in 14 minutes and 50 seconds.
That would accomplish one objective for certain; another, potentially, for ultimate glory.
15:01 Eduardo “Lalo” Herrera’s best time at Woodward Park’s 3.1-mile course
For certain? It would better the section record of 14:51 by Buchanan’s C.J. Albertson in 2010, when he placed fourth in the state’s D-I. Herrera is No. 2 all-time in the section at 15:01. His brother, who recently ran for two years for Long Beach State, had a best of 15:36 at Woodward and was also a two-time section champion.
For ultimate? Should that not only win gold, but lead the Stallions to the team title.
14:50 The time Herrera believes he can deliver
While Herrera believes he has a 14:50 in him, he also makes this clear: three others could, also, on a diverse Woodward course expected to be packed and fast after a series of recent storms.
The D-I boys favorite will be Arcadia’s Phillip Rocha, who has placed first (14:58.0), fifth (15:18) and 10th (15:27) in the past three state finals.
A representative for the U.S. at the World Youth Championships in Colombia in July, Rocha also ran 14:58 to beat Herrera (15:01) in the Clovis Invitational at Woodward on Oct. 10.
“Phillip is a very strong runner,” Herrera said. “I’ll have to be very smart in what I do. I’ll try to play a game and see what he does. My objective is to keep competing, to keep pushing until I can’t anymore. It will be the most important race of my life because it’s state and I’m a senior.”
Present and sure to be beaming will be his parents, Eduardo Herrera Sr. and Maria, and big brother.
The parents, as farm laborers, have had to be selective in their appearances at meets. In addition to last year’s state cross country meet, they also saw him in the CIF State Track and Field Championships in July at Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, where he placed third in the 3,200-meter run.
“It means a lot when they come,” Herrera said. “It’s inspiring to see my parents, knowing how hard they work. So I try to show them how hard I work so they can see the results.”
CIF State Cross Country Championships
Saturday at Woodward Park
Admission $10 adults, $5 for children, students, and seniors
Boys 11:15 a.m.; Girls 12:50 p.m.
Girls 11:45 a.m.; Boys 1:25 p.m.
Girls 8:30 a.m.; Boys 9:40 a.m.
Girls 9:05 a.m.; Boys 10:10 a.m.
Girls 10:40 a.m.; Boys 12:20 p.m.