By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– North Salem’s Elizabeth Hernandez’ hard work has paid off. All of those repeat 400’s during practice and the tough workouts that the Vikings coaches put them through have resulted to Sunday’s signing to Portland State University as she recalls those repeat 400’s workouts
“Usually during practice before COVID-19 we would do repeat 400s and they made you really tired and almost throw up but now it feels great knowing I did all of those hard workouts because it paid off,” said Hernandez. “Those workouts definitely made us work hard and push each other. I feel like they made us become closer as teammates and I can go to one of my teammates if I need someone to talk to or if I’m in a problem.
“They were also designed to when meet time came around, we didn’t have to worry and just run our hardest and not be overworked from practice. The pandemic has made me realize that running alone sucks and I would much rather have teammates to run with so they can push me to become the best runner I can be.”
Her teammates have made moments on the track fun Hernandez said. Some of her best friends are doing it with her and it taught her to appreciate any and every effort each teammate put in because they are all in it together.
“We also come prepared to practice and we come with a positive attitude so we can encourage one another and be a better team together,” Hernandez said.
At Portland State, she’ll be joining former teammates Abi Swain and Hailey Lewetag. Both are in their first year with the Vikings of PSU this school year after graduating from North Salem in 2020. Lewetag was part of the 4×400 relay team that beat Silverton for the 5A State Title in 2019 with Hernandez.
“Hailey was part of my 4×4 team so we always had a strong connection there and Abi is super sweet. I’ve always looked up to both girls. And it’s very helpful as well that I know some teammates so they can show me around,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez was fifth in the 400-meter dash her sophomore year as the Viks of Salem won the 5A State Team Title in 2019. A moment that she won’t forget as she prepares for hopefully one more year with North Salem.
“Winning state will be an event I will never forget cheering for my teammates and seeing their goals and the team’s goals come to life was very exciting and we were all proud for each other,” Hernandez starts. “I just remember praying while Hailey was doing the anchor leg for the 4×4 with Nerrisa (Thompson) and Dana (Romero) and if it was a moment in life I’ll always remember about.”
The work is not done yet however.
Hernandez, who also plays soccer for North Salem, wants to help build a strong team bond with the program before she graduates while being a good leader for her squad.
“For soccer… build a better bond with the team we’ve struggled with before and I want to leave knowing…I helped my teammates improve,” Hernandez said, who also plays with club soccer at Capital FC. “I’ve been norths captain and we usually don’t win a lot of games but I always tell my teammates to play hard and I encourage them to play club soccer because it has definitely helped me along my soccer career.
Also leading by example going to off season practices even if they’re not mandatory making sure I text people letting them know we have practice certain days so we have a bigger turnout of girls. Motivating my teammates and making sure that they are confident so they can play better.”
In track, she’s setting goals in both of her races in the 400-, and 800-meters, the two distances that she will also compete at while at PSU. Closing in to 60 seconds in the 400-meter dash and two minutes in the 800-meter race.
Describing both as doable and being close to her 400-meter dash goal as of now even though she’s done the 800-meter dash once in the past four years. It’ll be a challenge with the pandemic, but Hernandez is slowly building up the mileage needed to achieve her goals on the track.
“I’ve only done the 800 once freshman year and I’ve set some goals that I want to accomplish before I arrive at PSU and when I’m there,” Hernandez. “Improving will be an obstacle because of the pandemic but right now I’m currently running every day to build up my mileage as well as going to the gym to build up my strength and finish up my last soccer season with CFC.”