May 23, 2008
By John Philip Wyllie
Cristina Hernandez and Alfredo Rodriguez have a lot in common. Both of them enjoy playing soccer and competing in cross country. Both of them are good students. And now both of them are Mesa League track title holders. These two Bonita Vista High Barons even run the same event. In the Mesa League, nobody ran the grueling 3200 faster this year than Hernandez and Rodriguez. The good news for coach, Lou Russo is that both of them are not only talented, they are also young. He is expecting that Hernandez and Rodriguez will be the cornerstones of their respective teams for the next several years.
On the girl’s side, Hernandez was in track this spring what Sofia Garcia was in cross country last fall. The fleeted-footed freshman pair dominated in league cross country last fall with Garcia taking top honors and Hernandez nipping at her heels. Close friends on and off the track the friendly competition that they waged brought out the best in each other.
While both Hernandez and Rodriguez are obviously talented, Russo believes the similarities end there.
“Cristina is more apt to get out to a large lead, Freddie is more apt to stay with the leaders and then pull away at the end,” said Russo when comparing the running styles of the two. “Cristina has a very strict work ethic where Freddie is more free and easy. Cristina has improved tremendously and Freddie has taken 26 seconds off his time from the beginning of the season. Personality-wise Freddie is more open and gregarious and Cristina is kind of quiet and reserved.”
At times during the season, both Hernandez and Rodriguez ran the 1600, but both elected in the postseason to compete in the more demanding 3200.
“I can take more pain than other people and my times in the 3200 where closer to the CIF standard,” Rodriguez.
Track competition and training are divided along gender lines so Hernandez and Rodriguez never worked together, but as friends and teammates they supported each other.
“When she would run the whole team would get behind her and cheer for her and yell out her times and the same thing was true for me. When you are running though you can’t really hear because you are so focused,” he said.
Both Hernandez and Rodriguez saved their best for last this season. Hernandez best time prior to the league finals was 11:55. With everything on the line she shaved her time down to 11:41. Rodriguez, a sophomore, sliced 27 seconds off his previous best time to finish his race in 9:33.