Former UT standouts Manzano, Hernandez highlight day two of Texas Relays
March 29, 2012
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Decorated former Texas Longhorns Leo Manzano and Jacob Hernandez have been friends for what seems like a lifetime, but they competed as foes for the first time on Thursday night of the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.
In just the second-ever running of the 800-meter invitational, Hernandez and Manzano were even as they turned into the final straightaway. But it was then that Manzano, the tenacious 5-foot-something 2008 Olympian, relied on the strength that has made him a champion runner since elementary school.
With a stubborn finishing kick that left the field seconds behind him, Manzano bested his own meet-record time set in 2011 to win the race in 1:47.65. Hernandez ended up fourth with a 1:49.69, his best mark of the season.
Manzano and Hernandez were UT teammates in 2008, when Manzano won his second NCAA Outdoor championship in the 1,500-meters and Hernandez claimed his second national title in the 800-meters.
They've remained close friends and training partners.
"Throughout my collegiate career and even now three years after college, I've never raced Leo," Hernandez said. "What better place to do it than at home, in front of this crowd? It was just like old times."
Manzano's presence on the Mike A. Myers track was as dignified and graceful as ever. In 2008, Manzano opened his senior outdoor season at the Texas Relays with a meet-record 3:56.98 in the Jerry Thompson Mile - the first sub-four minute mile in Texas Relays history.
The nine-time All-American then went on to finish second in the 2008 Olympic Trials and qualify for the Olympic team.
"My story goes back to when I was 4, and my family immigrated from Mexico," Manzano said. "I just grew up with a love of running."
As a high school standout, Manzano won nine Texas state championships, and he continued that success with the Longhorns. He won the NCAA Indoor title in the mile in 2005 and 2007, in addition to his two outdoor championships.
Now, Manzano is hoping this early outdoor success on this track is a prelude to another Olympic journey. Manzano says his focus is still the 1,500, but chose to run in the 800 as a training base.
"I really enjoy the 800. Literally the gun goes off and the next thing you know there's only one lap left," Manzano said. "To tell you the truth, Jacob did a lot of the work (in this race). We're teammates and just competitors. I knew he wasn't going to let me have it easy."
Manzano and Hernandez started their race just as the sun descended into the western sky, which left the stadium aglow in a calm stillness. It was perfect track weather, and fittingly the former UT standouts capped off a strong day for the Longhorns.
Less than an hour earlier, junior Isaac Murphy became just the third Longhorn to win the Texas Relays decathlon. Later that night, UT's women's distance program was showcased well by Brittany Marches' win in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and Marielle Hall's decisive victory in the 5,000-meters.
Murphy set or matched personal records in seven of the 10 events to finish with a personal-best 8,067 points, and he joins Trey Hardee and Aaron Fox as UT decathlon champions at the relays.
"It means a lot to carry on the legacy of Texas track and field (in the decathlon)," Murphy said. "This is pretty far up there in my accomplishments. I can't say this was the best, but it's definitely a very good feeling. I wanted to get the meet off right for the guys in burnt orange."
However, some guys in maroon managed to get off on a good note as well Thursday. Texas A&M's men's 4x800 meter relay foursome set a new meet record with a winning time of 7:15.99.
James Bonn gave the Aggies a sizable lead after the first leg, and the remaining three runners just kept adding to it. A&M won by seven seconds over second-place Baylor.
"We were just trying to win, trying to see what kind of times we could run," said Michael Preble, who ran the anchor leg. "At this point, we're definitely trying to run fast. Everybody performed well, and we were able to get the record so it's good."
Earlier Thursday afternoon, West Virginia's Chelsea Carrier-Eades won her second-straight heptathlon title at the Texas Relays. Carrier-Eades got out to a quick start in the 100-meter hurdles on Thursday to take the lead, and she maintained control the rest of the way.
"It is nice (to win for a second year). It is good competition. The girls were all wonderful competitors," Carrier-Eades said. "I do like competing here. It is very pretty, and you can see the city from the track. The stadium is amazing. I like Texas."