Fernandez wins twice, but Owls finish last in conference meet

Blanca Fernandez led Temple with top finishes in the mile and 3,000-meter runs, but the team finished last among the 11-team field.

The women’s track & field team concluded its run at the American Athletic Conference Championships at the New Balance Center in New York on Saturday.

Graduate-junior Blanca Fernandez highlighted the team’s day with two first-place finishes in both the mile run and the 3,000-meter run. Her marks of 4 minutes, 50.11 seconds in the mile, and 9:29.77 in the 3,000 were enough to break conference-meet records in each event.

Fernandez’s performances not only awarded her gold in each event, but also awarded her the conference’s Most Outstanding Performer award for women’s track & field in the indoor season.

“That’s a huge accomplishment,” coach Elvis Forde said of the honors, “knowing that there were other athletes that performed quite well, but nobody as well as she did in multiple events.”

The women’s 4×400-meter relay team of seniors Hollis Coleman and Kiersten LaRoche, junior Demeshia Davis and sophomore Kenya Gaston finished eighth in 3:46.04.

Sophomore Sydnee Jacques claimed a personal-best mark in the triple jump with a distance of 11.87 meters, finishing 10th in the event.

In the long jump, sophomore Bionca St. Fleur finished eighth with a mark of 5.78 meters.

Despite some standout performances, Temple finished at the bottom of the pack in the overall team standings. However, Forde remains optimistic for the outdoor season to come.

“I think our team understands what it’s going to take, and I think they are recognizing that we have to work a little hard to be better,” Forde said. “We’re looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead for us as we get into the outdoor season.”

The indoor season could still continue for one athlete, however. The Owls are still awaiting the announcement of the NCAA National Championship qualifiers, which could possibly call Fernandez’s name.

She currently ranks first in the mile and 3,000 in The American, and could gain entry into the national meet if her performances are enough to earn her a Top-16 spot.

“We’ll keep our fingers crossed for her because she deserves the opportunity,” Forde said. “We will be patient and if it doesn’t happen, we’ll make sure it happens [during] outdoor and do the right things in terms of getting her the necessary competition that she needs to move forward from there.”

The 2015 NCAA National Championship meet qualifiers should be announced sometime later this week, Forde said. The meet will take place in Fayetteville, Arkansas, March 13-14.

Tyler DeVice can be reached at tyler.device@temple.edu.

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