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The story begins in a small city in Southern California where a third-grade version of Hannah Hernandez first took up running. The next chapter will take a college-version of the Philomath High standout to the Oregon State University campus.

The youngster’s mother and grandfather had both been long-distance runners and so one could surmise that it had been implanted in her DNA. She joined a club program that her mother had been a part of when she was younger.

“In third grade, that’s when I kinda started getting into it, being in the club,” Hernandez said, “and then after that, I just had this passion for running and meeting new people and being able to have experiences with teammates. And of course, the competing part of it.”

Oh yeah, and what about the first taste of competition? How did she do?

“Good ... I won my first race” — a positive start to a long series of successes in the sport.

Hernandez’s journey through the years included a stellar four-year run in cross-country and track with Philomath High — a chapter that has not yet closed with this spring’s track season to come. She pulled off the accomplishment of winning the district cross-country meet four straight years and has been part of state championship relay teams in track and served as a key contributor to various team trophies, including the Warriors’ third-place showing a few weeks ago at the state cross-country meet.

Hernandez, who is the daughter of Marty and Sal Hernandez, said she loves Oregon and wanted to stay close to family while taking advantage of an exceptional engineering program that the Corvallis-based university offers.

“The engineering program is awesome and very well-known for having athletes going through that program and being able to get out and go into careers quite quickly,” Hernandez said.

The Oregon State women’s cross-country team recently finished seventh in the Pac-12 Championships and seventh in the NCAA West Regionals. The Beavers just missed out on sending a runner to the upcoming NCAA Championships.

“I’m sad for the women that we won’t be advancing to the NCAA meet but we are amongst the top 10 percent of programs now,” coach Louie Quintana said.

Last year, the program had its highest regional finish in program history with sixth place. Besides the academic component, it’s that type of recent athletic success that helped Hernandez lean toward the Beavers.

“The athletic program, they’ve got a new coach about two years ago and he’s developing his athletes right and they have gone up in rankings,” Hernandez said. “That was also something that attracted me.”

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Hernandez said she considered five other schools — all in the Pacific Northwest.

The Beavers will ask Hernandez to follow a specific workout schedule next summer before she wears the OSU colors.

“They’re going to give me a program,” she said. “It’s laid out specifically for me and to help me get ready for fall.”

Hernandez can often be seen running around Philomath with a training schedule that averages 6 to 8 miles per day. In fact, she can tell you how many miles she put in, say in 2013, when she was competing at Philomath Middle School.

“Every workout that I’ve had since fifth grade – it’s been written in a catalog,” she said.

Hernandez enjoys the 5-kilometer distance that’s the standard on high school courses. The distance in college runs a bit longer at 6 kilometers, or 3.7 miles.

Asked if she would ever have interest in a half-marathon or full marathon, she said, “I’ve never done a race longer than that (5K) but I probably will end up doing that in college though.”

Hernandez, who has also competed with the Timberhill Harriers club team, signed her letter of intent with OSU as part of a PHS cross-country banquet Thursday.

“It was really exciting and it was nice having everyone from my teammates and teammates’ parents there for support and my coaches,” she said.

Hernandez had a successful showing in Saturday’s Region 13 Junior Olympic Championships at Lane Community College in Eugene in her final race with the Timberhill club.

“I’m done now,” she said. “I’m going to be swimming for cross-training and then also just training for track.”

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