Graduate-junior Blanca Fernandez has won conference titles and eclipsed school records after arriving to the United States several months ago for the first time in her life.
But she never ran in front of 40,000 people, not until this weekend when she competed at the 121st running of the Penn Relays at Franklin Field. More than 40,000 spectators saw the Temple distance runner place fourth in the Olympic Development women’s mile run on Saturday with a mark of 4 minutes, 39.88 seconds.
Fernandez, 23, stayed close to the three competitors who finished ahead of her, including mile-winner Kerri Gallagher of the New York Athletic Club and Oiselle.
“My plan was to stay with them,” Fernandez said. “I ran [Friday] and my legs remembered.”
On Friday, she anchored Temple’s relay that finished seventh with a mark of 3:56.77 in the College women’s spring medley Championship of America. She said Friday helped her get used to Franklin Field’s atmosphere.
The Penn Relays was not the first unexpected big thing that required her to adapt, though, since making her move to the U.S. Leaving her country for another was a challenge all on its own.
“It’s like a parallel world,” Fernandez said when comparing the U.S. to her native Spain. “Here, everything is so big.”
Fernandez is a graduate student in the Fox School of Business. She will earn her degree next year, and will compete for the Owls in 2015-16 as a graduate senior.
“[Fernandez] brought a winning attitude that’s rubbing off on the other members of the team,” Owls coach Elvis Forde said. “The other kids are seeing what she’s enjoying from a success standpoint.”
Forde said he likes Fernandez’ high level of maturity.
“She’s very caring, almost like a motherly figure,” said Forde. “It’s that European connection. They’re so much more appreciative and thankful for what they get. She’s from that sort of cut. Her teammates are seeing that and are responding to her. I’m happy she’s on the team.”
David Block can be reached at email@example.com.