Alejandro Hernandez is living life in the fast lane
Alejandro Hernandez was surrounded by violence in the neighborhoods around his home.
The Colorado Mesa University swimmer was like many boys growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, and admitted to a little vandalizing himself, but said his parents and school kept him too busy for it to escalate.
“It’s fun, but it’s a mess,” Hernandez said. “It’s a tumultuous city. It’s a chaotic city.
“There is a lot of violence. It’s gotten worse, but I love the city.
“I got in a little bit of trouble with groups of people that vandalized things, but I got out of it. My parents did a great job raising me. The school I went to didn’t give me time for that.”
The son of two swimmers, Hernandez focused all of his energy in the pool and it’s resulted in a golden opportunity.
The 22-year-old has a chance to make the Venezuelan Olympic team. He is competing in the Venezuelan Olympic Time Trials this weekend in his native country. The 2012 Summer Olympics are July 27-Aug. 12 in London.
“It’s amazing,” Hernandez said. “I go back (to Venezuela) for special meets, but this is pretty big being the Olympics. I got really motivated after the last Olympics. It was always in the back of my mind.
“For me, it would be a dream come true. I think it would for anybody. I don’t know how it wouldn’t. I’ve been swimming for about 121⁄2 years now.”
Hernandez qualified for the Olympic Time Trials thanks to a second chance at competing in the NCAA.
His parents encouraged him to participate in the international student exchange program and be near his older brothers in Denver.
After one year as an exchange student at Pomona High School in Arvada, Hernandez enrolled at Metro State College in Denver and swam on the varsity program.
After his freshman year (2007-08), Metro dropped the program. He planned on staying there, focus on school and continue to compete with a club team in the north Denver area.
Hernandez applied to some NCAA Division I schools and possibly swim again, but he had trouble with his transcripts.
“(CMU coach Brian Pearson) kept talking to me and said I should come here,” Hernandez said. “I talked to my boy, (Mesa teammate) Brian Lee, who I met at Pomona. He talked to me about coming here, so I started thinking about it again. I really had a blast my freshman year. (Lee) showed me the pool. With these great facilities, I thought, ‘Why not?’ So here I am.”
Hernandez placed fourth in the 200-yard butterfly and fifth in the 200 individual medley at the RMAC championships last season. This season, he set an El Pomar Natatorium record in the 400 IM with a time of 4:09.95 in the CMU Invitational and set a National B cut time in the 200 IM.
“He has the most beautiful, technically sound strokes of anybody I’ve known,” Pearson said. “He knows how to handle stress and competition. What he lacks in physical stature, he makes up with intensity and tenacity.
“I’ve coached kids from foreign countries, but he’s the first one that is a real athlete and serious about what he does.”
Hernandez said his butterfly stroke is his best, but he has worked hard on his backstroke. He will compete in the 400 individual medley, 200 butterfly and 200 backstroke in the time trials.
“I won’t get nervous until I get back to my city,” Hernandez said. “I spend a whole day flying to get there, then early in the morning I fly out to the meet. My dad told me I literally get off the plane, get my suit on and swim in my first event. That will be a challenge for sure.”
He is set to graduate later this month with a degree in marketing. After the Olympic Time Trials, he’ll return to Grand Junction and finish the season with the Mavericks. After that, who knows?
“Maybe I’ll try for Worlds,” he said.