In her 17 months competing in various long distance events at Temple, Blanca Fernandez accumulated four years worth of accomplishments. She set six program records and became Temple’s first cross-country All-American.
Fernandez’ career ended at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday, where she competed in the 5,000 meter.
The graduate senior distance runner finished 11th out of 24 runners and clocked a time of 16 minutes, 17.03 seconds to earn second team All-American honors in her last race as an Owl.
“Blanca has been a foundational piece for the program, and she has given us a great start to get where we need to be,” Forde said. “But it comes time for them to move on. Just like at any college, the good ones go and you have to expect that the newcomers and returning athletes will step up.”
The goal for Fernandez heading into the race was to place in the top eight and earn first team All-American distinction. Fernandez has run the 5K five times during her track & field career. She competed in the 1,500 during last year’s outdoor season.
“She competed very, very well, especially considering she is new to the event,” Forde said. “The competition in this race was very high.”
Fernandez hopes to compete in the 5K race for her native Spain in the 2016 Rio Olympics. She must place in the top three of Spain’s National Championship meet and reach a qualification time of 15:24.
Fernandez’s performance on Saturday is 53 seconds away from reaching the necessary time. Her best time in the 5,000 meters was in the NCAA East Regional Round on May 28, when she finished in 16:09 to beat her own school record.
“The fact that she has progressed this much already in such a short time is a testament to her skill and talent, but she still has a lot to learn,” Forde said.
Fernandez transferred to Temple midway through 2015.
She started her career by earning second team All-American honors in the mile during the 2014-15 indoor track & field season. Fernandez followed that by earning second team All-American distinction in the 1,500 during the 2015 outdoor track & field season.
After an injury took away nearly all of her indoor track season, Fernandez still managed to compete in a record-setting 2016 outdoor season.
She took three months off while recovering from tendonitis in her IT band and came back in the outdoor season to become the American Athletic Conference’s champion in the 1,500 and the 5K before finishing off her career in Eugene this weekend.
Now, she moves on from Temple and looks towards qualifying for the Olympics.
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at email@example.com