June 9, 2012
DES MOINES, Iowa – The Oklahoma State track and field team wrapped up competition at the NCAA Championships on Saturday morning with German Fernandez and Natalja Piliusina running in the final 1,500 meter races.
In the first race of the day, Fernandez led the majority of the way in the men’s 1,500-meter final as he did during the semifinal race on Thursday. He went into the final lap with the lead, but fell back from the front-runners of a talented field in the final leg of the race. He placed 10th with a time of 3:46.62
“First of all, I’m just really, really proud of German,” coach Dave Smith said. “Seven weeks ago, I thought his career at OSU was over. He found his way out of the woods and got back into it and got training again and he’s healthy.
“He made the finals at the national championships, and seven weeks ago he wasn’t running. I’m really proud of him.”
For the senior Fernandez, it marked the final time he would don the bright orange uniform of OSU. He leaves OSU as one of the most decorated runners in school history. He won an individual NCAA championship in the 1,500 meters as a true freshman in 2009, and he also helped lead the Cowboys to two team national championships in cross country in 2009 and 2010. He’s an eight-time Big 12 individual champion, a three-time first-team All-American and holds three OSU school records.
“He’s done some huge things,” Smith said. “His career legitimized our program and it brought a lot of other kids to our program because he was here.
“We’re going to miss him. I can’t believe four years has come and gone so quickly. I’m sad to see him go, but I know he has big things in his future.”
The women’s 1,500-meter final immediately followed the men’s race, and Piliusina came out of the gates strong, running in the front of the pack for the majority of the race. Piliusina fell behind the leaders in the final lap, finishing in 4:18.74 to place 10th.
“I wish I could explain what happened; I don’t know,” Smith said. “With a lap to go, I thought she was going to win. She told me afterward, with a lap to go, she thought she was going to win.
“Whatever happens sometimes – whether it’s physiological or psychological or both – she just felt like she couldn’t run. Sometimes it’s just one of those things that happens to the best of us.”
The two 1,500-meter races conclude the 2012 outdoor season for the OSU track and field team. Smith said he was proud of the way the athletes competed and said the meet gave the younger athletes a good learning experience.
“The NCAA track and field meet is one of the best track and field meets in the world every year,” Smith said. “Every event is just cutthroat competition. If you’re only .5 percent off in your game, you’re going to get exposed, and I think that happened to us here.
“Overall, I was real happy with Toni Young, and I think German came back and did a great job, but the rest of the athletes here are pretty young and inexperienced and kind of learned the hard way how high-pressure this environment is.”