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Castle Park's Hernandez scores honors as Metro's best all-around track athlete Phillip Brents | Fri, Jun 14 2013 02:11 PM

Participation by Metro Conference athletes in the San Diego Multi-Event Championship — the seven-event girls heptathlon and 10-event boys decathlon — has been constant since the event made its debut in 1989.

Past champions include Hilltop’s Kathy Sorenson (1994), Mike Arms (1996) and Kurt Klaser (1989), Sweetwater’s Erin Asay (2001) and Spencer Curtis (2012) and Eastlake’s Austin Jett (2007).

Castle Park senior Daniel Hernandez put his name at the top of that list after racking up 5,950 points to close out the grueling two-day decathlon last weekend at Cuyamaca College.

The 5,950 points stand as the most ever posted by a South County athlete in the history of the event (as researched through available records). Hernandez's point total easily eclipses the winning totals turned in by Arms, Klaser, Jett and Curtis.

So, does that make Hernandez South County’s best-ever decathlete?

His runner-up performance spoke for itself in a very strong field that featured six state qualifiers, including three state medalists and four state place-winners.

Rancho Bernardo senior Ivy Adair, a state meet qualifier in the boys long jump, totaled 6,129 points to win this year’s decathlon. He cemented his fame as one of only four decathlon champions to top the 6,000-point mark. The meet record stands at 6,549, set by Matt Chisam (St. Francis/Mountain View) in 2000.

“My coach had mentioned it to me at the league finals and I was interested,” said Hernandez, who placed second in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles at the section Division II finals. “Last year I wanted to try this but I had a family event and I couldn’t make it.”

Overall, four Metro Conference athletes competed in last weekend’s decathlon. Joining Hernandez were Castle Park junior Jesse Villaruel and Bonita Vista’s Angel Landavazo and Mahmoud Zeidan.

Villaruel finished ninth overall in the strong 19-deep field with 4,331 points.

Landavazo, a sophomore, was 13th with 3,477 points while Zeidan, a junior, was 15th with 3,429 points.

The decathlon tests one’s ability to perform well in each of the 10 events. Hernandez attempted five of those events for the first time last weekend.

He proved up to the challenge by recording top marks in the shot put (42-1.5), 110 high hurdles (16.11) and discus throw (119-1) while posting the runner-up marks in both the long jump (20-7.25) and javelin throw (126-10).

He also set a personal record in the high jump (5-7).

“The decathletes and heptathletes are considered to be the best and most fit athletes on a track team," multi-event meet director Lyle Barton assessed. “It takes a special athlete to do all of these events well.”

Hernandez was in contention for the title throughout the two-day meet, which wrapped up Sunday. In fact, it took two meet records posted by Adair (ninth in the long jump at this year’s state meet) to relegate the Trojan standout to second place.

Adair established new meet marks in the long jump (23-0) and for first day points (3,496).

“The mile (1,500) made my day, breaking five minutes,” said Hernandez, who entered the final event trailing Adair by 230 points. “Placing top three was my goal and I got second.”

Hernandez, a league and Division III wrestling champion during the winter sports season, will attend Northern Arizona University this fall where he will play football and also compete in track and field.

He is leaning toward taking up the decathlon in college.

“This made me realize what I could do,” the Trojan standout said.

Hernandez ranks second all-time at Castle Park in the boys 300 hurdles with a time of 39.19 and is fourth overall at the west side school in the 110 high hurdles with a time of 15.24.

He timed 39.74 in the 300s at the CIF finals to place sixth overall in the section A-heat. The top three place-finishers automatically qualified to compete at the state meet.

“It was great to make it to CIF in the 300s and win league in the 4x100,” he said.

Hernandez’ all-around stature — he scored five touchdowns and collected six sacks during the fall football season — earned him honors as Castle Park’s 2012-13 Male Athlete of the Year.

Hernandez finished 431 points ahead of Steele Canyon senior Brandon Howard, a third-place state medalist in the 300 hurdles, and three more points ahead of Poway junior Charlie Bush, a state meet qualifier in the high jump.

Howard set a school record of 37.65 to earn his bronze medal at the state meet. He posted the top times in the 100 dash (11.57), 400 dash (50.30) and 1,500 run (4:41.89) at last weekend’s decathlon.

Bush had the top marks in the high jump (6-5) and pole vault (14-3) while Scripps Ranch’s Danny Podraza had the top mark in the javelin throw (134-9).

Girl power

Steele Canyon senior Monique Van — the reigning section Division I triple jump champion — captured her third consecutive San Diego heptathlon title by scoring 4,245 points. She fell just 33 points shy of setting a new meet record.

“It’s OK,” she frowned slightly. “I still have college.”

Van, who won four individual events at the Grossmont Hills League finals (long jump, triple jump, 100 low hurdles and 300 hurdles), will continue her education and athletic career at UCLA. She has set a goal of competing in the women’s heptathlon at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

“I’m excited for college,” she said. “My coach (Jack Hoyt) is really excited about me in the heptathlon. From what I understand, I am going to start as a freshman.”

Cathedral Catholic sophomore Hannah Labrie-Smith bested Van in the 100 hurdles (a meet record 15.35) and 200 dash (25.68) in the opening day of competition, but had to withdraw from the meet after suffering an injury in the long jump during the second day.

Labrie-Smith had hurdled to a third-place state medal in the girls 300 hurdles after winning both the 100 and 300 hurdles events and recording a runner-up finish in the 100 dash at the section finals.

Valhalla sophomore Leah Molter finished second with 2,680 points. 

Locals only

Villarruel finished 11th at last fall’s South Bay League cross country championship meet. He placed second in the pole vault (9-3), third in the 110 high hurdles (17.29) and sixth in the 300 hurdles (44.47) at last month’s league track finals.

“I’ve wanted to expand my list of events,” he said. “I wanted to try them all and see what I could do in each one. Overall, I like the decathlon. If I do something in college, I’d like to do the decathlon.”

Villarruel placed second in the 1,500 (4:45.91) in last weekend’s meet; he just missed tying his PR in the pole vault (9-6) by finishing at 9-3.

Landavazo and Zeidan were both out to gain experience and exposure to different events as well.

Landavazo had previous experience in the shot put, pole vault and 100 dash; Zeidan had previous experience in the high jump, long jump and triple jump.

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