By John Philip Wyllie
As the son of a Mexico City born physician and an American nurse, Paul Hernandez believes he has reaped the benefits of both worlds.
“I’ve had the opportunity to experience both cultures and I really appreciate that,” said the younger Hernandez who hopes to one day pursue a career following in his parent’s footsteps. “My dad is still really connected to his Mexican heritage and he has always tried to expose us to it as much as possible.”
Hernandez has traveled frequently over the years to Mexico. He has spent considerable time in Baja California, the Yucatan and with his father’s family in Mexico City. “It’s an important part of my heritage, so it is great that I have been able to experience it.”
An appreciation of Mexican culture is by no means the only thing that Hernandez has learned from his parents. They have been instrumental in instilling his unrelenting drive. It has taken him to the top of his graduating class at Bonita Vista High and paved the way for him to become one of the county’s top swimmers.
“My parents motivated me when I was a lot younger, but nowadays, I like to look at what I have accomplished. It gives me a sense of fulfillment.”
In the pool, Hernandez was named Metro League Swimmer of the Year last season while a junior and placed second in the CIF 10-meter breaststroke and third in the CIF 200-meter individual relay. He has a good shot at taking top CIF honors in both events this time around. Hernandez also owns several school-swimming records and placed fourth in the entire California-Nevada section with a time of 2.25.83 in the 200-meter breaststroke. He is no less impressive in the classroom.
His 4.72 G.P.A. places him fifth in a very competitive graduating class in a school that routinely sends students on to Harvard, Yale, MIT and Stanford.
“I’ve been looking at the California State universities,” Hernandez said. “I think they give you more bang for your buck and since I plan to go to graduate school, I don’t want to incur a lot of debt as an undergraduate.” UCBerkley and UCSD head his list at the moment and it is not a coincidence that both offer top-notch swimming programs.
“My coach once told me that the difference between a good swimmer and a great one is that a great swimmer likes to feel pain. Pain is inescapable in swimming. It feels good to get out of the water after a really good practice and be dead tired. It is kind of a bittersweet type of pain.”
With talent to spare and a deep well of competitive spirit and motivation to draw upon, Hernandez may be inflicting a little pain of his own this season. It will be the pain of defeat to those who oppose him.