COLUMBUS — Wayne graduate (1989) Michael Fernandez, a former school record holder in the 300 intermediate hurdles (39.4 seconds) and a member of the record setting 4×400 meter relay team (3:19.51), will be inducted into the Ohio Association of Track & Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame on Friday, January 27.
The Hall of Fame banquet will be held at the Hilton at Easton in Columbus at 6:30 p.m.
After graduating Fernandez returned to Wayne in 1991 as an assistant track coach and then middle school coach. He then became the high school assistant varsity track coach in 1993 before being named head coach in 1998, a position he still holds today.
Fernandez pushes his athletes hard. He brought a level of leadership and motivation that demands his athletes bring their level of performance up to his level of expectation. His athletes have responded by providing Wayne state championship level performances as well as two Olympic Trials qualifiers, Darien Thornton and Alexis Thomas.
When asked how it felt to be recognized for his coaching skills, Fernandez said it was a big honor.
“It’s humbling. That is probably the word that comes to mind, because you look at the list of the people that are in the Hall of Fame – they are the Jesse Owenses of the world and the Joe Greens,” Fernandez said. “All of a sudden you are a part of that elite group, so it’s pretty humbling.”
He has been affiliated with Wayne track since his freshman year in high school, 1985. Asked what his most memorable season was, Fernandez offered up a three part answer.
“The most memorable would be winning the state title as a coach in 2000, but another was when I got named interim head coach midway through the 1997 season and we won the Western Ohio League meet and as an athlete in 1989 winning the first-ever league championship for the school during my senior year,” he said. “Those are kind of the three most memorable. A fourth would be when I was an assistant coach when we won the state in 1995.”
He reflected that he has so many memories from all the great athletes he has coached and the meets his teams have competed in.
Fernandez has taken 241 of his athletes to the Ohio High School Athletic Association state championships with 75 earning All-Ohio honors including 12 state champions (11 individuals and one relay) as well as nine state runner-up performances, including two relay teams. The indoor track & field program at Wayne has also flourished under Fernandez, with 10 individual state champions at the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Indoor Track & Field Championships.
He has also coached five 4×55 meter shuttle hurdle relay champions at the New Balance National Indoor Track & Field Championships and another six individuals who placed top six, a total of 11 All-American honors in Indoor Track & Field. Fernandez has also led Team Ohio to the Midwest Meet of Champions title in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Under his leadership Wayne boys and girls team have won 26 district championships, six regional championships, one state title, finished as district runner-up eight times, regional runner-up three times, state runner-up once and finished once as OATCCC Indoor State runner-up.
Asked what is coaching philosophy was, Fernandez said, “The biggest thing I want to do is to make sure that we develop a kid to learn the right things, not only as an athlete, but also to be a responsible person, and to have a good work ethic and then to see the growth of a kid. I think what we have gotten away from is everyone wants instant success right away. No one wants to develop and be good at their craft. So that’s what we have been trying to do and what we have been fortunate to do because we have been able to have kids buy in to what we are doing. I don’t think I would have been coaching this long had it not been working.”
Fernandez noted that everyone wants to win, and his as well as his team’s goal is to win the league every year, to qualify out of district and to try to win the state.
“Even if I know realistically that we don’t have a shot at it, I can’t let those kids know that. We are not going to settle for anything else,” he added. “Winning has a lot to do with it. Everybody would like to win, but it’s not everything. You have to set a goal and that’s what we try to do every year.”
Reach Ron Nunnari at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@civitasmedia.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind