In the waning moments of the 6K race, Blanca Fernandez made her move.
After chasing the lead for 5.8 kilometers at the NCAA Division I Mid-Atlantic Regional, the senior runner pulled ahead of Princeton University senior Emily de La Bruyere to win the NCAA Championship with a time of 20 minutes, 52 seconds.
“I love that feeling when you cross the finish line and say to yourself, ‘I did it,’” Fernandez said.
It was the sixth consecutive victory this season for the Leon, Spain native, who finished 1.6 seconds before de La Bruyere.
She previously claimed the title Oct. 31 at the American Athletic Conference Championships to become the first conference champion in program history, with a season-best time of 20:06.
“Winning this race was awesome,” Fernandez said. “I knew it could happen, but I was not expecting it.”
Last spring, Fernandez was the first Owl to represent Temple at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championship since 1987.
With the victory Friday, Fernandez became the first women’s cross country runner in school history to qualify for the NCAA Division Cross Country Championships.
“Who knows the next time this might happen?” coach James Snyder said. “It means a lot to our program, and I love to see kids doing things they didn’t even think they could accomplish.”
Her time of 20:52 Friday at Princeton was Fernandez’s second-slowest out of four 6K races this season.
Fernandez said the cold weather and 23 mph winds affected her time.
“The wind makes it so hard,” Fernandez said. “Nobody wants to lead because you just get all the wind, which makes it a slower race. It was a lot slower than I was expecting.”
Despite winning the race, Fernandez said she was not confident in her running abilities while on the course.
“I suffered a lot in this race,” Fernandez said. “My head was telling me I wasn’t going to make it to nationals, so I was really fighting against my head.”
Fernandez will compete in the NCAA Championships Nov. 21 in Louisville, Kentucky, where she is looking to complete her goal of being named a U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American.
The senior runner must place in the Top 40 of the field in order to achieve this feat.
“I’m excited because I will be able to run against really good girls and see what level I am on compared to them,” Fernandez said.
As a team, the Owls finished 23rd out of 30 teams at the Mid-Atlantic Regional.
Besides Fernandez, no other Temple runner finished inside the Top 140 of the 200-competitor field. Junior Megan Schneider—who finished 144th—was the team’s second highest finisher, while freshman Katie Leisher finished 153rd after crossing the finish line with a time of 24:21.09.
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at email@example.com,