Junior Renata Hernandez had a career year in all three sports she participated this season - while her signature is certainly bright, her future is even brighter.
No matter the sport, venue, situation or scenario, a 1000-watt smile is often plastered on the face of junior athlete Renata Hernandez.
Where most high school athletes do their best to mar their features with an intimidating scowl or a stone-cold blanket of indifference, Hernandez's smile reflects the confidence and love that she exudes in each play of each sport.
The junior smiles when she blasts an expertly-returned serve past her opponent on the concrete tennis courts.
The junior smiles when she uses her blinding speed to knock away a telegraphed pass en route to a fastbreak layup.
The junior smiles when she slaps a single from the left side of batter's box into the outfield, where she can use her speed to challenge any outfielder's arm.
Renata Hernandez lives for the moment no matter the uniform - no matter the sport.
Hernandez had plenty of reasons to smile at the end of her junior year, as she earned a sweep in Big South All-Conference selections this season.
The rising senior was selected to the All-Conference teams in tennis and softball while earning an All-Conference honorable mention in basketball.
Despite racking up accomplishments and accolades in each trimester sport, in our interview, Hernandez flashed a signature smile and humbly gave praise to her teammates.
In the fall, Renata found herself having to make a huge leap from No. 1 doubles to No.1 singles in the wake of Zoie Becker's knee injury.
"It was such a different game," said Hernandez. "In doubles, you work cohesively with a partner, but in singles I found myself relying much more on myself and my moves."
Since joining the team as an eighth-grader, Hernandez has been a featured doubles player, but Becker's injury necessitated a switch to singles.
As the de-facto #1, Hernandez shined going 22-4 in singles matches, en route to a 28-4 overall record.
In addition to her strong season, she set a career milestone with her 100th win against Stewartville.
Hernandez' dominance led her to earn the #1 seed in the 3A Sectional Tournament where she proved why she toppled Arika Howard and Hannah Himmelman before dropping a close match-up against Maple River's Vanessa Barkosky in the championship.
However, Hernandez was selected to her first BSC All-Conference Team as a singles competitor.
"I think this fall I became a more well-rounded player," said Hernandez. "With Zoie coming back, I look forward to our team making a push for State."
Switching from the tennis courts to the hardwood floor, Hernandez knew the upcoming basketball season was going to be a challenge, individually, and as a team.
A season removed from a winless season, Hernandez and the girls' basketball team were out to prove that they were better than the goose egg in the win column suggested.
The sight of a red-and-black #5 jersey going for a coast to coast layup off a tipped pass was a regular one for the St. James girls basketball team this season.
Renata Hernandez was a terror on the defensive side of the ball: swatting away errant passes, swiping the Spalding right out of an opposing guard’s hand, and generally using her quick feet to stay in front of some of the Big South’s best offensive threats.
She earned an All-Conference Honorable Mention at the shooting guard position. In her Junior year, Hernandez improved to become the Saints’ best two-way player this season.
She was able to deliver the Saints their first win in a calendar year, with a 16-point, 12-steal performance, beating Madelia 43-41. Her performance earned her a selection on the St. James Holiday All-Tournament Team.
In the Saints’ 26-game slate, Hernandez averaged 5.9 PPG, 3 RPG, 2.6 SPG, with her signature moment this season happening at the Christmas Tournament against Madelia.
In an uncharacteristically snowy spring, Hernandez would trade her Nikes in for cleats, as she prepared for a promising softball season.
Hernandez is a secret weapon in the Saints lineup - she is the team's slap-hitter. Her burst of blazing speed from the left side of the batter's box, combined with her ability to put the bat on the ball, made her one of the toughest outs in the St. James' lineup.
Hernandez hit a team-best .426 on the season, scoring 18 runs and swiping 10 bases out of the two-hole spot in the lineup.
Hitting hasn't always been something Hernandez was confident with, three years ago she found herself struggling from her natural side of the box.
"I was getting frustrated with my at-bats from the right side," said Hernandez. "So I had looked into becoming a slap-hitter from the left side because of my speed."
Hernandez, along with summer ball coach Averie Barrett, studied the art of slap-hitting, as dead-ball-era baseball player Willie Keeler would say, "hit 'em where they ain't."
The Saints softball team went one of the most impressive playoff runs in recent memory, blowing through the loser's bracket in an eventual 2-1 loss against top-seeded Pipestone.
However, Hernandez' season would come to a premature end in the loser's bracket finals against Martin County West.
On an advance attempt, Hernandez injuring her knee on a slide at third base.
During the championship game, Hernandez wasn't out at her shortstop position, dirt-stained jersey with her glove ready to make a play.
She was forced to be a spectator, not in uniform, but with a thick, black air cast on her right knee, and supportive yet intrusive crutches underneath both arms.
Despite not participating in the championship game, she still got to experience the magical second-place finish with her teammates as well as her third selection to a BSC All-Conference team this season.
However, while appreciative of her success this season in each sport, for Hernandez it's all about the team.
"I want to be able to be a leader in all the sports, and help all three of my teams go as far as possible."
A leader, a competitor, and a good teammate, there's are the roles Hernandez wants to be associated with as she enters her senior season.
"I want to leave a positive impact on my teammates, coaches and especially younger girls who watch me play," said Hernandez.
Whether she's netting a perfect serve, hitting a clutch basket, or making an outstanding diving play in the outfield, you can expect to see that signature 1000-watt smile on the face of a girl who loves the game.