FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- With German Fernandez sprinting into the lead at the sound of the starter's gun, the NCAA Division I 1,500-meter championship race, basically, was over almost before it began.
The Riverbank native now competing for Oklahoma State, led the race from start to finish to earn the title National Champion. He was challenged only briefly, at about the 1,000-meter mark, but he simply picked up his pace when Arkansas' Dorian Ulrey, New Mexico's Lee Emanuel and Stanford's Garrett Heath began to challenge.
"I knew I wanted to keep the pressure on and I knew I needed to save for the last 100 meters," Fernandez told the Oklahoma State press aid. "I kept thinking, 'I'm almost there.' At one point I thought I might get caught, but I knew that I had that extra gear for the last 100 (meters)."
Fernandez finished in 3 minutes, 39.0 seconds -- his fastest race at the distance and a half-second ahead of Heath and the others. He was four seconds off the NCAA meet record of 3:35.30 set by Villanova's Sydney Maree in 1981, and well below the NCAA record of 3:30.56 that Washington's Bernard Lagat ran in 1999.
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Fernandez was one of only two freshmen in the race, and the other -- David McCarthy of Providence -- finished last in the 12-man field. His previous best had come in winning his qualifying race in 3:41.39.
"It's a relief for me to get an NCAA championship," Fernandez said. "I knew that there were a lot of people watching me and I wanted to give the fans a good show."
Fernandez gave Oklahoma State its first track and field title since 1986 when Paul Larkins won the mile. The victory gave him the title of All-America, as well.
"It's hard to get surprised by him anymore with all the great things that he's done," coach Dave Smith said. "He ran a phenomenal race today and showed a lot of confidence in leading from the start. He basically told the field, 'Come and get me if you can,' and they couldn't."
Fernandez, who was named the Big 12 and Midwest Region Performer of the Year, moves to the No. 2 spot on OSU's all-time 1,500-meter list with his performance.