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The real deal
High school is just the beginning for Fermin
Shawna Fermin first thought it was a joke when her new coach told her she could make it to state.
But Silverado’s first-year sprint coach was serious.
“She was a special kid,” Tyrone Dames said about seeing Fermin run for the first time in September. “I just looked at her and said, ‘you can make the state meet.’ She just looked at me and smiled.”
Fermin, who advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Division I finals in the 400 as a junior last year, shaved nearly 2 seconds off her time at the Arcadia Invitational in April. She went on to help the Hawks win their first Desert Sky League girls track and field title.
Then Fermin easily won the 400 meters and the long jump at the league finals and ran on the league-record-setting 4x400 relay team to advance to the CIF playoffs. At the Division I finals, Fermin ran her personal-best time of 55.46 seconds in the 400 to take third and finished fifth in the long jump.
Dames’ words came true as Fermin cruised through CIF-SS Masters to finish fifth at the state championship 400-meter race, breaking her personal record with a time of 55.16. Coaches in the High Desert whose teams have competed against the Hawks call her “the real deal.”
That’s why Fermin is the 2009 Daily Press Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year after transforming from a raw athlete into an elite sprinter this past season.
First, Fermin learned to be more strategic with her race plan. Normally, a 400-meter runner divides the distance into the first 300 meters and the final 100. Fermin said she used to kind of jog the first 300 before sprinting at full speed on the remaining 100. But working with Dames, she started setting a goal for the first 300 (just under 40 seconds) to make sure she used up all her energy when she crossed the finish line.
Head coach Pat Brannon, along with Dames and the rest of the staff, has been trying to develop Silverado into a competitive track and field program since Brannon took the job two years ago.
“The last two years, we picked up a little bit with our track program and that helped Shawna Fermin,” Brannon said. “I think we just put more effort into the Silverado track team. All the coaches worked together.”
While Fermin first felt Dames’ training method was “fatiguing” and “crazy,” it eventually helped boost her confidence level and competitiveness.
“(Dames) expected us to be very professional, like if it was 100 degrees outside we still had to warm up in sweats,” Fermin said. “That’s how serious he was. Everybody’s attitude changed because I’ve realized that in track you can’t fool around with injuries and stuff.
“I was just determined because my coach told me that you can go to state this year. And ever since he told me that, then I was determined to make that goal.”
Fermin said that until her junior year, she was thinking that she “might” be able to compete for a Division I college. But this year, she was thinking she “could” compete at that level. And she recently signed a letter of intent to attend Washington State on a track and field full-ride scholarship.
“I picked Washington State because I felt the most comfortable there and I felt a connection automatically when I got there,” Fermin said. “I’m actually excited to compete in a higher level because that means I can have better competition and I’ll be able to run against some of the best people because I’m in the Pac-10.”
With her parents coming from Trinidad and Tobago, Fermin can represent either the U.S., where she was born, or Trinidad and Tobago at international competitions. Asked which country she’d like to represent, Fermin answered Trinidad and Tobago because of her cultural heritage.
Fermin said she hasn’t given much thought to her track career after college yet. Her father says she’s still not confident enough to talk about the Olympics.
But looking at the improvements she made by believing in herself and working hard this year, she has proven that dreams can come true. Whatever her goals are, Shawna Fermin’s track and field career is just getting started.
Tomoya Shimura can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 951-6281.