Every meet that Derek Levisay has attended this year has begun the same way.
The first question Levisay is asked at whatever meet he has attended this season is will Efrain Hernandez be competing?
“The thing is everybody knows him,” said Levisay, the first-year Ellison boys track and field coach. “His reputation kind of precedes him.”
Two years ago, the only reputation that preceded Hernandez was that of his brother, Hector, a sophomore at Texas A&M who won gold in the 800-meter run while a senior at Ellison.
But these days, Efrain is creating his own memories.
Like when he repeated as District 8-5A champion in the 800 and won his first district title in the 1,600 in Hewitt.
And like he hoped to do Saturday while competing in the Arcadia Invitational — the same invitational in which Hector once claimed the fastest 800 time in the nation — in Los Angeles.
Now, it is Efrain generating his own buzz.
“They know him and kids, they know him from other schools,” Levisay said. “He has a lot of respect. So whenever he’s on the track, you can tell something big is about to happen.”
In a way, it isn’t surprising that Efrain or Hector have enjoyed the success they’ve had in track and field.
Their parents, Efren Hernandez and Ara Casillas, competed at the collegiate level in Puerto Rico.
Brother, Luis, and sister, Anamaris, also competed at Ellison after the family moved to the United States in 2007.
Not only has the entire family competed at the varsity or college level, but they all competed in the same event — the 800.
Yet Hector and Efrain are different.
“My older brother, he never liked track,” Hector said. “So he quit. My sister, she liked it, but she wasn’t interested much. So she quit also.”
Hector, however, didn’t quit.
Instead, after switching from running the 200 and 400 to the 800 in high school, Hector blossomed into the best 800 runner in the nation, running a 1:49.91 at the Arcadia Invitational as a senior, second only to a Canadian runner.
“That was actually the first time I ever broke 1:50,” Hector said. “So it was a really good experience.”
That led Hector to tell Efrain about the invitational and encourage his younger brother to make an effort to compete.
It’s just one of many ways that he has tried to help Efrain — who said he has always looked up to Hector — achieve similar success.
“Out on the track, they talk to me about Hector,” Efrain said. “And he eventually helped me out running. All he knows, he’s kind of passed it down to me — training and how to run the race.”
Heading into Saturday, Efrain had lost just once this season in the 800. (Due to time-zone difference, the result of his race Saturday was unknown at press time.)
But the success Efrain has already had even caught Ellison distance coach Jesse San Miguel by surprise after working with Hernandez the past four years.
“He kind of surpassed what I thought he would do just because of his youth,” San Miguel said.
The reason San Miguel refers to Hernandez as a youngster is because he is one — the Eagle senior is only 16 years old.
But Hernandez certainly hasn’t performed that way this season, and San Miguel said his approach has grown as well.
“I think he’s kind of realizing this can be a vehicle for him to do some things at the next level,” San Miguel said.
Levisay said recruiting interest in Hernandez has picked up since he won the 800 and the 1,600 at the District 8-5A meet.
Efrain and Hector hope to run together at A&M, but according to Hector, the two have already achieved their parents’ dream.
“I’m actually the first one to go to college and run,” Hector said. “So now Efrain is there and it’s like my parents’ dream come true — we’re out there running for college.
“It’s good for us. They’re happy, and we’re happy for them.”
And no one is happier for Efrain than the guy whose reputation once preceded him — Hector.
In fact, Hector, who watched his brother race once this year and receives constant updates from their father, is most happy to see Efrain creating his own legacy — and generating his own buzz when he arrives at a meet.
“Everyone knows him for what he is and he’s making his own decisions, his own track times and everything,” Hector said. “So I feel good for him. I’m happy for that.”
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