He’s Keith Hernandez. No, really — he’s Keith Hernandez. The East Meadow miler, who shares a name with the famous former first baseman turned broadcaster, couldn’t be prouder of his Mets fandom, which is literally part of his heritage.
“My dad, Orlando, is a huge Mets fan,” Hernandez said. “On the first date that my parents went on, my dad told my mom that if they ever had a son, they were going to name him Keith Hernandez, after the first baseman.”
That bold prediction came to fruition and now, just like his namesake, Hernandez is a winner. The senior won the 1,600 meters in 5 minutes, 6.30 seconds Thursday at the East Meadow Invitational. Hernandez came back to beat teammate Bryan Villafuerte, who jumped out to an early lead before falling back to a second-place finish in 5:07.10.
“I knew I would be able to catch him because he went out a lot faster than I did,” Hernandez said. “Our first 200 was 34. So I relaxed it a little from there and knew that I had enough time to come back and catch him.”
Runners had to battle bitter cold and strong winds all day, but for Hernandez, it felt just like any other cold-weather practice. East Meadow practices outside whenever possible, during the winter and spring seasons. So, when it felt like winter in early spring, Hernandez wasn’t fazed at all.
“Coach [Mike] Ringhauser always has us practicing out in the cold, when a lot of teams aren’t,” Hernandez said. “It prepares us for windy conditions like this.”
The East Meadow track, in general, is windy.
“We’re used to that wind on the back straightaway,” Hernandez said. “When that wind starts pushing, you just have to push through it. It’s always going to hurt, but it always pays off in the end.”
But, used to it or not, there was no denying that running in that sort of cold just wasn’t any fun. “When I started the race, my legs were numb,’’ he said. “I actually thought I was going to collapse. Fortunately, that did not happen.”
Wantagh’s Tess Duignan won the girls 1,500 in 5:24.80.
“I think the cold weather also has a negative effect on everyone’s attitude,’’ Duignan said. “Seeing my teammates in a funk before the race can definitely be a danger to our performances. It’s best to try and think positively.”
Duignan made up a huge deficit, kicking with 200 meters left and catching Bellmore JFK’s Maya Spottiswood. Brooklyn Tech’s Juliet Gottfried was second out of a different heat in 5:24.90, and Spottiswood finished third in 5:26.30.
Elmont’s Demoni Gilkes took the boys 400 in :53.30, and Hempstead’s Courtashia Felton won the girls 400 in 1:02.70.