For Eduardo Herrera, it was his vast experience that led to a sense of calm despite what could have been an ominous start to his final run through the Pac-12 Conference championships last week.
It was just one year ago when Herrera’s postseason took an unexpected downward turn. His 2021 outdoor track season began with Herrera setting a Colorado school record in the 1,500-meter run. It ended with Herrera finishing a distant 15th in the 5K at the NCAA West Preliminaries.
For most runners, that sort of still-impressive finish wouldn’t be something to scoff at. Herrera, though, returned to CU to take advantage of his extra season of eligibility and script a better finish to his decorated collegiate career.
Last week, however, it would have been easy for Herrera to feel a twinge of uncertainty. His competition at the Pac-12 meet began with Herrera barely qualifying for the final of the 1,500. It turned out that run wasn’t at all a sign of another disappointing postseason about to unfold, as Herrera capped the meet by not only finishing third in the 1,500, but turning around hours later to win the conference title in the 5K.
Herrera will be the undisputed leader of the men’s side of CU’s program as the Buffaloes travel to Fayetteville, Ark., to begin competition in the NCAA West Preliminaries on Wednesday.
“It’s kind of funny how (the Pac-12 meet) played out the way it did, because in my 1,500 prelims I didn’t feel like myself. I felt very terrible,” Herrera said. “I was the last guy in (the final) for the 1,500. After that race, I had this mental battle. What’s going on? Am I not in shape? Why do I feel bad? Especially since I had pretty good training sessions leading up to that race.
“Afterwards, I had like over 30 hours to sit back and let it go and kind of reset. I talked to (coach) Mark (Wetmore) and he just said prelims are sometimes like that. I think once the race started my body wasn’t on the same page as my mind. But then Sunday came and I felt good, I felt different. It’s a huge confidence knowing if I have a bad day, I can come back 24 hours later and still be a completely different runner.”
Herrera trimmed more than two and a half seconds of his preliminary time in the 1,500 before finishing third at the Pac-12 finals, then turned around and took first in the 5K. He already is the owner of three CU team records — the indoor one-mile, indoor 3K, and the outdoor 1,500 — and also ranks second all-time in the outdoor 5K.
“I think another reason why I had a shaky first race at the (Pac-12) prelims is that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself,” Herrera said. “Last year, what happened, happened in not qualifying for nationals and having a terrible day at regionals. I kept telling myself, ‘Hopefully, this won’t happen again,’ but I think I was over-thinking it too much. But this is a different year. I’m in shape. I’m fit. I’m ready to do what I want to do. It gave me the confidence to just go out there and give everything I’ve got, because if I do that I’ll be in good position.“