BOYS CROSS COUNTRY | SEASON PREVIEW

Bloom Twp.'s Jacob Hernandez pulls double duty as runner and soccer player

2011-09-01T21:00:00Z 2011-09-02T05:15:04Z Bloom Twp.'s Jacob Hernandez pulls double duty as runner and soccer playerBy Ken Karrson kenneth.karrson@nwi.com, (210 933-4192 nwitimes.com

If one is good, two is better.

That certainly holds true at a buffet table or on payday, but sometimes it simply means double the work. Such is the case with Bloom Township senior Jacob Hernandez, who is attempting a balancing act this fall by competing in both cross country and soccer.

This isn't a first-time endeavor for Hernandez; he did the same as a freshman and sophomore until Blazing Trojans cross country coach Huey Johnson convinced him to focus his athletic energies on running in 2010.

“Immensely,” Johnson said, when asked how much that strategy aided Hernandez last season, “and I think he saw that, too.”

The proof was in the results. After sitting out the Southland Athletic Conference meet, Hernandez returned to win the Class 3A Bloom Township Regional at Crete-Monee. He followed up with a 42nd-place showing in the Normal Sectional, where he clocked a personal-best time of 16 minutes, 6 seconds.

Hernandez eclipsed that standard by 46 seconds in his first outing of 2011 while taking second at the SAC Preconference meet, and Johnson couldn't help but contemplate what might have been.

“If he would have donated the time to cross country and concentrated on that (exclusively), he would have been much further along,” Johnson said. “(But) it's a decision he made. He's a great kid, so it's kind of hard to go, 'You're either going to do one or the other.'”

Hernandez, who also works as a projectionist at a local theater, doesn't mind the full schedule.

“I was home-schooled in the past, so I didn't do any sport (before high school),” he said. “My parents could never afford to put me on a community team. I was nervous at first, but I always wanted to do it.”

Hernandez's earliest running experiences weren't particularly memorable.

“I was not a great runner when I first started high school,” he said. “When I ran my first race, (I thought), 'Why the heck am I doing this? This isn't fun at all.' I was back in the pack all the time, and there were a few girls who were faster than me.”

Those girls -- former Bloom Township standouts Janina and Janalis Roche and Tara Gonzalez, all of whom now run at Olivet Nazarene -- encouraged Hernandez during that period and eventually saw him pass them up. He now ranks as a Blazing Trojans leader, and that quality extends beyond the course. Hernandez is among the top 20 in his class academically, and has been since entering Bloom.

Re-adjusting to soccer was somewhat difficult after a year's layoff, but Hernandez isn't sorry he came back.

“It's a lot of work, but I'm actually used to being a pretty busy person,” he said. “Cross country gives me endurance.”

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