Monday, February 01, 2010

Teen of the Week: Teen juggles academics, sports, unique hobbies; like airsoft

If there is a different way of getting directly from point A to point B, you can bet Victor Alexander Fernandes of Arnold has already done it.

When he isn't warming up for Broadneck High School's outdoor track team meets in the spring, the 17-year-old Arnold youth, a Broadneck senior, is an avid practitioner of free running and parkour.

Never heard of them? The two are not new. In the past decade, these athletic activities have been depicted in a number of action flicks and have a global network of enthusiasts. Free running and parkour are two non-competitive methods of running along a set route in the most efficient way possible while using one's body and the environment to get over any obstacles in the way, like low walls or picnic tables. No fancy pads, no helmets, no tools. Free running is a form of urban acrobatics. Think of it as skateboarding without the skateboard.

Victor is also a skilled stilt-walker and unicyclist. In years past, he's trick-or-treated on stilts he made himself. Or, wearing a costume he designed and stitched, Victor unicycles through Severna Park during that town's annual Fourth of July parade. Victor is usually juggling a collection of steel mesh balls. Yup, he made those, too.

"They're made of hundreds of small rings," Victor explained, showing off the hacky-sack balls he's covered with a skin of hand-made chain mail. In addition, Victor creates long, snakelike necklaces or beautiful, dangly earrings of small, intertwined rings. Each ring has been pried apart with needle-nosed pliers and linked with other rings in an intricate mesh design.

The Renaissance Festival in Crownsville has made good use of his energy. On autumn weekends when he's available, Victor is in the festival's juggling booth teaching passers-by to juggle.

Heather Nealy Torosino, the booth manager, said: "He's wonderful. Even before he was officially employed there, he'd hang out and help people who were learning. He'd help us cover breaks if it was a little tough. He's a great teacher. Victor just keeps working with people until they get it, and he's fun too!"

The Fernandes family has a history of RennFest employment and enjoyment. His father, John, a Class of 1982 Naval Academy grad who works for a federal agency, has served as the money counter. Sister Andrea, 23, a writer for Mental Floss magazine, is a souvenir booth manager. Middle sister Juliana, 21, who is pursuing a master's degree in architecture at Roger Williams University, spent two seasons at the festival. And sister Christy, currently attending Union County College in New Jersey, has labored as a "bubble fairy."

His mother Terry, an editor-researcher for the Office of Naval Intelligence, has her hands full as a Bruins Music booster. Brother JC, 19, is a sophomore at West Point..

Victor also moves by marching - he was a valued member of the Bruin's award-winning marching band. A member all four years, he was the brass captain and section leader this past fall. Victor plays the baritone, a low brass horn.

"Victor is so funny," exclaimed Sandra Balderson, chair of the music department. "He is calm, yet works hard and always surprises me. Just when I think he's not listening, he comes up with an answer that convinces me that indeed he was right there with us. He has a delightful sense of humor that just pulls everyone in.

Marching band director and instrumental music instructor Matt Heist adds: "Victor has a fun personality that causes people to want to be around him. He is very dedicated and selfless. He knows what it means to be a 'team player.' "

Airsoft is another of Victor's many interests. It is a simulated warfare game similar to paint ball, but the Airsoft guns fire plastic BB pellets instead of paint-filled balls. It's a great way learn gun safety and improve shooting markmenship.

Victor doesn't drop the ball when it comes to academics either. He earned a perfect SAT verbal score of 800. His combined score is 2280, placing him among the top one percent of all SAT test-takers in 2009. He is a member of the National Honor Society and the Tri-M National Music Honors Society, and is an AP Distinguished Scholar.

Next fall, Victor hopes to attend a small university with a good engineering program, possibly on an Army ROTC scholarship. He is juggling application paperwork for three colleges. Down the road, Victor "hopes to get a job designing after market parts for hot rods."

His real passion, it turns out, is fixing up cars that rolled down Detroit assembly lines years before he was born. A couple years ago, he put a new engine with a used V6 into an '84 Ford LTD. Next, he restored a '66 Ford Mustang, which he traded for a '76 Chevy Nova he found on His dream is to eventually own a '72 Pontiac Firebird Formula.

"It's the best-looking car made by Pontiac," Victor said. "With after-market parts, it can be made into an extremely fast car."

Despite piles of schoolwork and all his interests, Victor has a steady girlfriend, too. Somehow, he manages to juggle everything seamlessly.

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