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Track newcomer exceeded even his own expectations

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Track newcomer exceeded even his own expectations

Manteca High graduate Vincent Herrera was one of the area's biggest stories for the spring season, as he qualified for the state meet after just 2 ½ months worth of training as a distance ru...

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin file photo

POSTED July 3, 2010 4:20 a.m.

Vincent Herrera didn’t know what he was getting into when he began training with Manteca High’s track and field team on March 3.

His parents urged him to pick up another sport after dropping baseball, and track was it.

“I was like, ‘All right, I’ll just do it to mess around,’” Herrera said. “I wasn’t sure how long I was going to last. I thought I’d maybe make it out of (the Valley Oak) league (meet) and that was it.

“It ended up working out.”

Herrera was the biggest surprise of the 2010 track and field season. He even surprised himself.

Despite his inexperience, the late jump to the season and nagging ailments, Herrera was the only athlete from the area to qualify for the California Interscholastic Federation State Track and Field Championships in Clovis this year.

For his accomplishments, the senior was named the Bulletin’s All-Area Male Track Athlete of the Year. He was even crowned Manteca High’s Best All-Around Senior Athlete after being selected to the all-Valley Oak League first team in soccer last fall and helping the school’s boys basketball team clinch its second consecutive conference championship over the winter season.

“I wouldn’t have gotten that (award) without track,” he said.

Things didn’t start out so smoothly. In his first live meet, he ran a 4-minute, 55.74-second mile for 10th place in the 12th Annual Tom Moore Relays at Sierra High.

Slow start, fast finish.

His in-race strategy to slowly build up speed before a big finish was a microcosm to the drastic improvement he made in his first year as a distance runner.

After the Tom Moore Relays, Herrera went on to beat some of the VOL’s more grizzled distance runners, namely cross country stars Alejandro Garcia of Ceres and Sierra’s John Bowers multiple times.

In the VOL Championships, he won the 1,600-meter race in 4 minutes, 24.81 seconds as well as the 800 in 2:02.53.

He continued to surge the following week, winning the 1,600 title in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Meet at Modesto Junior College while hampered by a sore ankle stemming from a previous bout with shin splints. Herrera became the first-ever Manteca High track athlete to win the mile in a section meet.

Herrera’s Cinderella act reached its peak at the SJS Masters Meet. He checked in with the 15th fastest seeded time in the 24-man field, but he placed third with a personal-best time of 4:21.41, using a wild 100-meter dash to the finish to punch his ticket to state. Only the top three finishers, including those who meet the at-large marks in their event, advance.

Herrera’s season ended on somewhat of a downer at Buchanan High, the site of the state meet. He finished 23rd in 4:35.55.

Herrera was disappointed, but he knows the state meet was a stepping stone for a promising track career at the collegiate level.

“I was running with people who have much more experience and have scholarships to schools like Stanford and UCLA,” Herrera said. “It just showed me that I still have to work hard to get up there, I can’t get lazy.”

Herrera said he may run cross country for Hawaii-BYU or both cross country and track for Queens University of Charlotte under regarded distance coach Scott Simmons.

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