This fall he won the Big XII championships while still 17 years old, but was carried off the NCAA championship course with what appeared to be a devastating achilles injury.
Apparently not. At the Arkansas Invitational today, he won the mile in 3:56.50. How fast is that? It's the current world leader (and was bettered only once last indoor season). It's the World Junior Indoor Record. It makes him the fifth-fastest US collegian of all time (for indoor track).
Now, this should be taken with a grain of salt. First off, the mile is rarely run indoors except in the USA. Second, the Arkansas track is one of the fastest in the world, maybe the fastest. And third, his time is worth about 3:39.0 for 1500, well short of the junior indoor record of 3:36.28.
Still, this is fantastic. Fernandez has legit mile chops but appears to be interested in the longer distances, which is exactly the setup that has made the East Africans essentially unbeatable in the 5k, 10k and cross country. In a few years the USA could have a legit contender at the men's longer races, something that has happened only about three or four times in the last century.
Fernandez has entered the USATF Junior Cross Country Championships, to be held on February 7th, along with college freshmen Chris Derrick and Colby Lowe. The sense is that these guys want to go to the World Championships and compete for hardware, both individual and team. A lot can happen between now and then; injuries, backing out of the team, whatever. But if they're all on the start line in Amman, Jordan, on March 28, I will be glued to whatever screen can bring me the action.
UPDATE: Here's the all-time US Junior list for the mile (indoor / outdoor combined)
|3:51.3||Jim Ryun (Kansas)||07/17/66|
|3:53.43||Alan Webb (VaHS)||05/27/01|
|3:56.50 id||German Fernandez (Ok St)||01/24/09|
|3:57.06||Dub Myers (Oregon)||05/14/83|
|3:57.4||Steve Prefontaine (Oregon)||06/05/70|
and the mile/1500 (* = mile X 99.42%, + = en route to mile)
|3:36.1+||Jim Ryun (Kansas)||07/17/66|
|3:37.5||Tom Byers (Ohio St)||07/24/74|
|3:38.26+||Alan Webb (VaHS)||05/27/01|
|3:39.0* id||German Fernandez (Ok St)||01/24/09|
|3:39.5*||Dub Myers (Oregon)||05/14/83|
Remember Dub Myers? Me neither. So this one race by itself shouldn't be taken to mean too much. But in the context, it's hard to keep from having high expectations for this kid.