Where Are They Now: Hernandez instrumental in UTRGV athletics’ success

EDINBURG — The Monitor and RGVSports.com are bringing back the ‘Where Are They Now?’ series that revisits some of the top athletes throughout the Rio Grande Valley from a wide variety of sports.

Sara Hernandez spent her high school days soaring over hurdles and winning championships at Brownsville St. Joseph. She went on to do the same at the collegiate level, setting track and field program records for the University of Texas at Pan American.

These days, Hernandez is in her seventh year working full-time with the UTRGV athletics department, currently serving as the assistant athletic director for marketing.

Each game day at home for UTRGV, it’s her job to help create an electric atmosphere. There’s two parts to it, according to Hernandez — the marketing side and the game day operations side. From the UTRGV billboards around town, to the music being played during pregame, to the games played in between innings, to overseeing social media, she does it all.

UTRGV’s Sara Hernandez – Courtesy Photo

“It’s rewarding because you get to be a part of everything. It’s exciting to see how far we’ve come from 2007 which was the first time I stepped on campus, and now it’s been 13 years, and we’ve come such a long way,” Hernandez said. “Knowing that I’ve been a part of it as a student-athlete and now working with the athletics department, I feel like I’ve been part of the process every step of the way in one way or another. That’s really rewarding and makes my job even more special, because I am happy to do what I do for a place that means so much to me.”

Born and raised in Matamoros, Mexico, Hernandez began her 10th grade year at Brownsville St. Joseph in 2004. During her junior and senior years there, Hernandez and her team qualified for the TAPPS state track meet featuring the best across Texas. In 2007, her senior season, the Bloodhounds’ girls track team was the best in Texas as St. Joseph captured the state championship, while Hernandez also nabbed a gold medal in the 300-meter hurdles.

“We just got very lucky that we had a good group of seniors and were able to bring home a state championship. That was a big deal for the school in 2007,” Hernandez said. “Track isn’t really a team sport, but as a team, we were able to do it together. I got first place in the 300-meter hurdles, second in the 100-meter hurdles, and second in the long jump, as well, and my teammates also contributed a lot. It was fun; we were dominating the Valley as a whole that year.”

After tearing up the track and field at St. Joseph, Hernandez enrolled at UTPA in Edinburg to continue her academic and athletic career. She received her Bachelor’s degree in journalism/public relations and then went on to pursue a Master’s degree in Business Administration. While a grad student, the UTPA athletics department had an opening for a graduate assistant in athletic media relations, which Hernandez applied for and got the job.

She also worked for The Pan American, the university’s student newspaper, as a sports editor and wrote for The Panorama, the school’s student magazine.

As an athlete at UTPA, Hernandez set a then-program record in the 4×1 relay and finished her running career No. 2 in the indoor 60-meter hurdles with a time of 9.23 in 2009, and No. 3 in the outdoor 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:03.69 in 2010.

UTRGV’s Sara Hernandez – Courtesy Photo

Some of her marks were eclipsed in recent years, but as a part of the program, Hernandez said it’s rewarding to see student-athletes come through the program, excel and grow, the same way she did.

“One of the things that has been very special is to see people year after year breaking it, because, yes, you were part of history and you earned the privilege to be in the record books. But it’s exciting seeing how we keep getting better every year,” she said.

Now, Hernandez is in her 13th year overall with UTPA and now UTRGV, having climbed the ladder from student-athlete to intern, all the way up to the assistant athletic director for marketing.

“When I was a student-athlete, I was always trying to do the right thing whether I was on the track, in the classroom, or at work. Sometimes when you do the right thing, you get lucky and encounter the right people who help you get to the right place, and I think that’s what happened to me and I’m very grateful for it,” Hernandez said.

bramos@themonitor.com