Former Yreka runner Fernandez earns national berth at SOU

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News
Isaac Fernandez of Southern Oregon University competes at the Cascade Conference Championships recently.

Southern Oregon University distance runner Isaac Fernandez, a 2018 graduate of Yreka High School, has earned a berth in the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships in the 10,000 meters.

Fernandez, a redshirt sophomore at the Ashland, Ore., school left early Sunday morning to compete in the championships, which are  being held in Gulf Shores,  Alabama. Fernandez will compete at around 9:50 p.m., EST. Wednesday night. Currently ranked 14th, his goal is to place in the top 8th, giving him All-America status. 

 A live stream can be found online at https://www.naia.org/sports/mtrack-out/indexFernandez is one of 15 Raiders that qualified nationals. This includes former Mount Shasta High School and College of the Siskiyous standout Garrett Bryan, who qualified in the pole vault. 

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Fernandez qualified earlier in the season at the Raider invite at SOU on April 23 and did not compete in the 10,000 at the Cascade Conference Championships on May 14  and 15 at Eastern Oregon University since he already qualified for nationals. Instead, he competed in the 5,000 meters and placed fifth and was 6th in the 1,500 met race.

Pam Borg, who coached Fernandez in both track and field and cross country at yreka High, commended him to earn a national berth at SOU.

“I extremely proud of Isaac’s qualification to the NAIA Championships as it hasn’t been an easy year and a half being a student athlete.,” she said.  “It’s been a rough road and Isaac has learned a lot about staying focused and determined to do his best despite the constant COVID guidelines changes”

For Isaac  to realize a goal and dream like this says a lot about his character, leadership, and personal strength as an athlete and a scholar student, Borg said.

“He has been in great hands with the coaching staff at SOU as they are top-notch and expect their athletes to do well,” Borg said. “I wish him all the best as he ties the starting line with the best of the best!”

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“It feels good to accomplish this,” Fernandez said. “ It was a big goal of mine heading into the season.”

Fernandez said it meant a lot to him and his teammates after he missed competing in track due to COVID in the spring of 2020 and missing out on the cross country season in the fall.

“It was really hard not being able to compete,” Fernandez said, “Instead, we were just training hoping a season would take place.”

 Isaac said the weather is supposed to be hot and humid even at almost 10 in the evening and said he will have to pace himself and be patient and not get too tired and dihydrated. He heard it might be about 80 degrees when the race begins.

 He believes if he can run a smart race, he has a shot at a top eight finish. “I’m really excited to see what I can do,” Fernandez said. “I know I need to pace myself so I won't burn out too quickly.” 

Fernandez said he has had a great experience so far at SOU and has enjoyed his team and his studies.

“It's been a great environment,” Fernandez said. 

Isaac has earned many academic honors in his time at SOU and was recently named to the Cascade Conference All-Academic team for athletics in the spring sports. He is majoring in health and PE at SOU.