Blanca Fernandez is no stranger to big meets.
Earlier this year, the graduate-junior ran the mile at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field championships─ the first Temple athlete to take part in the event in 28 years.
On Saturday, at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, Fernandez competed in the 1,500-meter run at the NCAA East Preliminary meet with an opportunity to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field championships in Eugene, Oregon.
After running the race in 4 minutes, 24.97 seconds on Thursday in the first round of the meet, Fernandez responded to the big stage on Saturday. She ran a school-record time of 4 minutes, 19.86 seconds in the 1,500-meter run to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field championships.
“She has put herself at an elite level at this point in time making two national championships,” Owls’ coach Elvis Forde said.
In order to qualify for the NCAA championships, Fernandez needed to finish among the top five in her heat or have one of the two fastest times not in the top five of the two heats. Her time in Saturday’s meet was good enough for a fourth place finish in her heat and 11th place finish overall.
“You can have all the skill and all the tools in the world, but there’s an inner drive you have to have and I think that she has that inner drive,” Forde said. “I think that’s what separates the good ones from the average athletes.”
Fernandez has had success all year running for the Owls. This winter during the indoor track season, she set the school record for the mile and qualified for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field championships in March.
This spring, the Leona, Spain native was an American Athletic Conference champion in the 1,500-meter run. She also set the school record for the 1,500-meter run earlier this season before breaking it again on Saturday.
Fernandez had not competed at the collegiate level in the United States. before coming to Temple in January.
“She’s had very short stint here in the U.S. in regards to getting here in January,” Forde said. “Still being able to perform at this level late into early June, it just says a lot about her character and what she wants to accomplish in regards to the sport of track and field.”
“Coach Snyder has really done a very good job of preparing her for the rigors of the collegiate circuit because it is a little different from competing in Europe,” Forde added.
While he still has high expectations for his star athlete at the meet, Forde said he and the coaching staffing are aware of the world-class competition Fernandez will compete against at the event.
“She has really taken her skillsets to a whole new level,” Forde said. “We are expecting that will continue at the national meet, but we also know she is going up against some of the very, very best kids in the world.”
The NCAA Outdoor Track and Field championships will take place at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon from June 10 to June 13.
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.