CONWAY, Arkansas — James “Chico” Hernandez of Washburn traveled to Arkansas and was one of more than 100 athletes from nine states who competed at the Arkansas State Senior Games Track and Field Championships, held Sept. 30 on the campus of University Central Arkansas.
The 70-year-old took gold medals in his division in the javelin, 400 meter power walk, 1,500 meter power walk and football throw along with silver medal in the softball throw and bronze in the high jump and hammer throw. He finished fifth in the shot put and did not compete in the discus event due to extreme heat of 97 degrees.
“I have been working out and practicing religiously all summer in the discus event and it was all starting to pay off until I got COVID at the end of August and well into September,” Hernandez said. ”I had a good week of practicing prior to this event and I was a little thrown off due to the heat as I left Presque Isle it was 36 degrees and when I got to Arkansas to compete it was 97 degrees. It takes a couple of weeks for me to acclimate to those conditions and I was wilting out there but still made the best of everything and had fun.
“It is a satisfying feeling for me to know I am a 1,500 meter state power walking champion in three states Arkansas, Vermont and Maine and also hold state championships in javelin in Arkansas and Maine and shot put champion in Vermont and Maine.”
Hernandez is better known for his exploits on the wrestling mat. Still, he has competed in various track and field competitions over the past 50-plus years since 1972. “I know I am a much better wrestler and ice hockey (player) than I am a track and field athlete, but it’s still a very humbling feeling and always a fun experience for me,” he said.
Last June 18 he competed in the Vermont State Senior Track & Field Games and brought home silver in the discus and two bronze medals in the high jump and shot put.
Hernandez has been featured on a box of Wheaties Energy Crunch Cereal and was also featured in Sports Illustrated’s and CNN/SI’s “Faces in the Crowd”. In October 2008, Hernandez was featured in the Scholastic textbook publication on the state of Maine called, “Maine – America the Beautiful,” and was featured in Discover Maine magazine in 2010. He has been inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, the University of Maine at Presque Isle Athletic Hall of Fame and is the only wrestler from Maine inducted into the AAU National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Disney World.