Just more than three months have passed since Blanca Fernandez, 23, broke her first school record for the program at Temple.
Since she finished the 3,000-meter race at the Valentine Invitational in 9 minutes, 16.24 seconds on Feb. 13, Fernandez has gone on to cement her place in Owls running history, becoming the first female athlete in almost three decades to represent Temple at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field championships.Fernandez, a recent addition from Spain, qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary meet in Jacksonville, Florida, with her stellar performance at the American Athletic Conference outdoor championships in mid-May, in which she captured an individual title in the 1,500. Two weeks ago at regionals, Fernandez broke her own school record for the second time this season, crossing the finish line 11th in the 1,500 with a time of 4:19.86.
"Back in January she didn't expect these fantastic things to happen to her," Temple head coach Elvis Forde said. "Because of her hard work and because of her preparation and the time she has put into it as well, these things have happened."
Heading into the NCAAs, Fernandez was not a favorite. Though it may have seemed lofty -- according to Forde, the competitors are the fastest not only in the nation, but in the world -- her goal was to qualify for the finals by finishing among the top eight runners in the 1,500 in the preliminary round.
Fernandez set the Temple record for the third time on Thursday with a time of 4:19.62, but missed out on earning a spot in the finals by a half-second.
Although she has only been competing in an Owls singlet for five months, Fernandez already has experience racing against the fastest of the fast. Before coming to the United States in January, Fernandez won the 1,500 at Spain's U-23 national championships.
The mid-distance star has also scoped out her American competition. Back in March, Fernandez sneaked into the NCAA Indoor Track and Field championships, qualifying 15th in a field of 16 runners in the 1,500. Her berth at the indoor championships made Fernandez the first Temple track athlete to appear at nationals since Felicia Hodges competed for the cherry and white in the high jump in 1987.
"It's her expectation that she can build upon this [season] and get better and move onto next year," Forde said. "That is going to be a tremendous boost for our team and we expect her to do very well."
This article was written by Laine Higgins from The Philadelphia Inquirer and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.