His coach has been waiting since February for this moment, but Efrain Hernandez has been waiting four years.
Now, his opportunity has finally come.
This weekend, Hernandez will finally have a chance to win a state title in the 800-meter run when he competes at the state meet in Austin, which begins Friday.
But head coach Derek Levisay said he has felt Hernandez has been ready since Ellison opened its season at Copperas Cove on Feb. 22.
“When you saw him run, you saw how strong he was early on in the season. We felt, man, we need to get the season moving,” Levisay said with a laugh.
While Levisay was initially worried Hernandez might not improve on his early times, his star runner has alleviated those concerns with his typical hard work.
For Hernandez, the thought of not getting a chance to compete at state his senior year fueled him the entire season.
“The goal is to win state, not just get there. That’s been in my mind the whole season,” Hernandez said. “So to finally get here, and knowing that I’m capable of winning, makes me want to work harder.”
What also has helped Hernandez is the advice of his older brother, Hector, who won state in the 800 his senior year with a personal-best time in his last race as an Ellison Eagle.
Now, Efrain is trying to do that himself, and Hector, now at Texas A&M, is doing everything he can to help.
“Since he’s been in the state meet, he knows what it takes to win,” Efrain said. “He knows what it takes to win, he knows all the hard work you have to put in to win a state meet. He’s kind of passed that down to me.
“He’s helped me out, talked to me a lot before races (and) after races,” he continued. “The whole year he’s probably been the most enthusiastic. He’s been very encouraging to me.”
Levisay said he believes Efrain will need to run sub-1:52 to bring home the gold, and Hernandez agreed, saying it will take the “perfect race” to win it.
But Levisay and Hernandez are confident that he has what it takes to do it.
For Hernandez, it is an opportunity he doesn’t want to let slip away.
“That’s been like the biggest goal that I have in high school,” Hernandez said. “My biggest goal was to be able to win state.
“Being able to accomplish that goal, it’s really going to be a dream come true.”