Each Month, Presidio Sports recognizes a local sports figure for their extraordinary contribution to the Santa Barbara athletic community.
It is our way to recognize those who are making a lasting impact in the sports community, whether it is an outstanding athletic performance, a lifetime achievement award, or perhaps a great example of leadership.
This award is made possible by American Riviera Bank.
Find the complete catalogue of Santa Barbara Sports Figures of the Month HERE.
Bryan Fernandez’s recent Cross Country CIF State Championship capped what has been described as ‘one of the best cross country seasons in Santa Barbara County history.’
On November 24, Fernandez completed an undefeated season by delivering Dos Pueblos its first State Championship in cross country.
In honor of a season never to forget, Dos Pueblos High School’s Bryan Fernandez is Presidio Sports’ latest Santa Barbara Sports Figure of the Month honoree.
Not bad for an awesome young man and dedicated athlete who really didn’t know what to expect entering his senior season…
But once Fernandez, 18, ‘stepped on the gas’ in September’s Seaside Invitational 3-miler to launch DP’s season, he knew in that one forever moment, that this could be something very, very special indeed…
“I ran a 14:05 – the fastest time I’d seen – it was a course and school record,” he says. “It hit me that I could be one of the best in that State and that changed my mindset. I knew I could win and I rode it all the way to the State Finals.”
It’s all been a steady and amazing climb — from being ‘slow and uncoordinated in fourth grade at Kellogg School’ (his words) and running a rather normal 9:40 mile.
Friendly competition – that being two classmates, near life-long pals and now fellow Chargers, Grant Schroeder and Ben York, unknowingly at the time, provided the fuel here to propel him forward — but running wasn’t quite Fernandez’s primary focus.
There were, of course, other sports to play — like baseball and club basketball.
But by the end of sixth grade, Fernandez edged pal Schroeder for this elementary school running record.
“He beat me by a second on the last day of school,” Schroeder recalls.
And then, you might say, Fernandez really ‘took off’…
In his first year at La Colina Junior High School, he set another school record and recorded his first sub-five-minute mile (4:59).
La Colina P.E. teacher John Sprague (a runner, himself) first noticed some special qualities in Fernandez’s ability.
Thanks to Sprague’s mentoring and Fernandez’s commitment, by eighth grade he was now having fun running the 800-meter event in all county track meets and USATF Junior Olympics events in Los Angeles.
And when he first ran the 1500 at a youth meet at SBCC’s La Playa Stadium — he won!
Fate intervened next, when, as a DP freshman, Fernandez didn’t make the basketball team.
“I didn’t grow much in my junior high years,” he says.
Gone was his dream of playing college b-ball at Duke but with his sleek runner’s build and a guiding hand from legendary DP distance running coach Len Miller, his dreams quickly re-focused on running cross country and track but he first had to learn one important skill, according to Miller:
He immediately wanted to beat (be faster than) teammate Sergey Sushchikh, two years his senior and already a force on the high school running scene.
Coach Miller, who has coached elite college runners, including Steve Scott — the former American record holder in the mile, knew otherwise in rushing things along.
“You’re pre-disposed to injury and, at some time, Bryan ‘bought in’ and learned the importance of patience and he deserves all the accolades coming to him for all the success he has now had,” Miller says. “He’s a blue chip college prospect.”
“I would not be anywhere near when I am today without Coach Miller – he paced me well,” Fernandez shares.
And his total commitment to the sport has not gone unnoticed…
“Bryan is the hardest working athlete on campus,” adds Addi Zerrenner, another DP Charger running sensation. “He inspires the whole team to do better and work harder.”
With Sushchikh’s graduation, Fernandez stepped into the spotlight and their special friendship continues to flourish….
“Sergey has been instrumental all along in Bryan’s progress – without Sergey, he would not have accomplished all he did and Bryan was instrumental in Sergey being a better runner, too,” Coach says.
During last summer, Sushchikh and Fernandez often trained together and Sergey willingly shared what he learned at UCLA about conditioning and diet – and it has all paid off nicely for Fernandez this high school season.
“Bryan works the hardest I’ve ever seen,” says long time pal and fellow senior cross-country teammate York. “That’s what he brings to team. He leads by example and now that the season is over – he has results to prove it.”
“Bryan is the perfect image of hard work and how that pays off — from first running in elementary school to being the fastest guy in the country,” echoes Schroeder. “He’s been there for all of us — he’s been great to his team, the program and the school.”
“We are all so proud of Bryan for all he has accomplished. He’s worked as hard at it as I’ve ever seen,” furthers Dan Feldhaus, DP athletic director. “He is a wonderful ambassador for the sport and for Dos Pueblos High School.”
And about that State Championship Race at Woodward Park last month – well, with his season on the line something kicked in on the home stretch with California’s fastest high school runners surrounding him, it really was anyone’s race, except …
“I just said to myself: ‘I’m not losing it! I’m gonna win it!” Fernandez exclaims about his all-out sprint to the finish line.
He did win … another one second victory!!
The fitting end to one truly spectacular season for the ages.
And about his zoom-zoom running abilities?
“Well, we’re not quite sure where he gets it,” says his mom, Charlene.
But one thing is for sure …
Our November Sports Figure of the Month Honoree, Bryan Fernandez, has certainly ‘got it’!
And ‘it’ is something very, very special, indeed …