|Yantis Fernandez running for more than just herself|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
May 11, 2005 - YANTIS - When Esther Fernandez hits the track Saturday in the Class A state finals of the 800-meter dash, she will be running for more than herself.
Not only will Fernandez be carrying the hopes of Yantis High School, where she is a junior, she will have the memories of two loved ones as well.
Fernandez wears a camouflage ribbon in her hair in memory of a basketball teammate's father who died in December, and she dedicated her last three meets in honor of an uncle whose funeral was the same day as the district track meet.
"Our 'team dad' passed away in December, Mickey Bean, and he wore camouflage all the time. I wear a camouflage ribbon in my hair in honor of him," Fernandez said.
"And then, I was going to miss my district meet because my uncle, Javier Vega, passed away from cancer, and his funeral was the day of the district meet. But, I went ahead and ran, and I dedicated the district, area and regional meets in honor of him."
She won all three meets, qualifying her for the UIL State Track and Field Meet this weekend at Mike Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas.
A regional qualifier all three years of high school, she has kept her success in perspective.
"I didn't feel very nervous at the regional meet, and I was real confident," Fernandez explained. "When I won, I wasn't so emotional because I had already expected it."
Her coach, Randy Phillips, said Fernandez has taken the next step to be competitive at the state level through hard work and a good attitude. After getting third at regional as a freshman, she slipped to sixth last season, and he believes that was a key motivating factor.
"She really came out this year and dedicated herself to going to state," Phillips said. "Last year when she dropped to sixth, I think that was a big disappointment for her.
"She really turned it around this year by working hard, and she did what she needed to do to get there."
She will likely need to run the best time of her career to get one of the top three places. She ran a 2:31.72 to win regional, but two girls in Region I ran sub-2:20s.
"Being realistic, we're shooting for that third place medal," Phillips said. "A 2:25 will be competing for a medal. She's going to have to have a real good race, but she's definitely capable."
She has the distance background, having competed in a 13.1-mile half marathon in Chihuahua, Mexico, last year in front of a large crowd. She also has sprinting capabilities, running on the mile relay and qualifying for regional in the 300-meter hurdles.
"Her confidence level is pretty high. I've taken her to larger meets this year where competition was pretty good," Phillips said. "This year, she's learned to race rather than just run. She hasn't been able to lead the whole race, so she's learned how to use her kick and come from behind. That should serve her well at state because she has a real good kick."
She is a three-year regional qualifier in cross country and kept in shape by playing basketball. She participates in Beta Club, FCCLA and Spanish Club. The middle of seven daughters to Sergio and Guadalupe Fernandez, she is also active at Fountain of Life Church in Yantis, where her father preaches.
(lane assignments and regional times)
1. Esther Fernandez, Yantis 2:31.72
2. Erin Britton, Whiteface 2:18.97
3. Felicia Prince, McLeod 2:33.03
4. Mandy O'Dell, Slocum 2:30.56
5. Kayla Warren, Sundown 2:14.75
6. Breanna Tollett, Baird 2:30.32
7. Anna Daws, Evadale 2:32.60
8. Chelsea Hermes, Lindsay 2:27.53