July 20th, 2018

Tracking down Hernandez

By Yoos, Cam on March 13, 2018.

A ‘Good Sport’ column by Dylan Purcell

I don’t mind covering track and field, I really don’t.

It’s just that a multi-sport event like a high school track meet or a zone championship track meet is a beast. There are too many events, too many athletes and far too many beleaguered volunteers to really find your story.

It puts a reporter at the mercy of their sources.

So it was in July 2012 as I walked around the Alberta Summer Games track at the U of L Stadium. A local track coach, Jaime Thomas, told me a kid from Coaldale was worth watching in, of all things, the triple jump. I knew Hernandez as a football player. He was one of those all-around types. He was also good at soccer, but I’d seen him rip off a big run or two for the Coaldale Kate Andrews Pride.

Keep in mind, he was wearing sleeves and a helmet at that football game.

When I got to the U of L track, there were two jumpers clearly ahead of the field. Unfortunately, from my vantage point, I couldn’t tell which of the two was actually jumping farther. I had to get a photo, and was positioned beyond the far edge of the sand pit.

Not knowing what Hernandez looked like and with no discernible markings on their track uniforms, I took photos of both kids until I could suss out which was Hernandez.

It seemed obvious. One of the kids was a pasty, freckle-faced ginger. The other had brown skin and appeared to me to have some Central American ethnicity. Perhaps swayed by the fact I had an award-quality shot of the darker-skinned kid, I figured I knew who Hernandez was.

Of course, with a last name like Hernandez, he was the tall, scrawny redhead so pale he shone.

Aaron Hernandez of Coaldale has been a shining star at every level of track. He’s been to Pan Am Games, senior and junior track championships, university championships and more. He’s won at every level, including a fourth USports gold medal over the weekend.

Hernandez is also a fun, self-effacing and open interview subject. He reflects and remembers meets weeks after the fact, and even though he definitely does not like rehashing his successes, he does it because he knows it makes his family, friends, coaches and school proud.

I’m one of the lucky people who gets to know local athletes like Aaron. Disciplined, driven and reflective, he’s a great example for younger athletes. He played every sport he could manage, and while he was good at all of them, he chose the least flashy. He stayed in Lethbridge, stayed loyal to Jaime Thomas and the Lethbridge Track Club. He wavered but used that to make himself better.

Aaron’s university career is done, his days as a Pronghorn are over. Competition becomes something else now. Whether it’s a job and a normal life or more competition isn’t the question today.

One advantage of leaving the newspaper behind is that I don’t have to drag my fat, sweaty rump across any more track meets. I don’t have to take a thousand photos and hope the bib numbers match their ID.

But today, reflecting on a great kid’s great career, I get to say I’m glad I covered the Alberta Summer Games that day in July 2012, and I didn’t interview the wrong kid and I’m definitely glad I got to know Aaron Hernandez.

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