When she stepped up to the starting line of her race Thursday in the preliminary round of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Blanca Fernandez had one thing on her mind─ to get into the 1,500-meter finals.
Fernandez, competing at the meet held at the University of Oregon with some of the top collegiate runners in the country, was aware it would be a difficult goal to accomplish in such a talented field of competitors.
“She knew going in that it was going to be tough based on the quality of the competition,” coach Elvis Forde said.
“We pretty much knew that if she was going to advance to the finals it was going to take a mark better than her school record,” Forde added.
The graduate-junior, who is the first Owl to compete at the NCAA Championships in 28 years, finished the 1,500-meter race in 4 minutes and 19.62 seconds, breaking her own school record of 4:19.86 seconds set at her last meet, the NCAA East Preliminary meet in May.
However, her record-breaking performance was not enough to secure a place in the final round of competition. Fernandez needed a fifth place finish in her heat or a top 12 finish overall to advance to the 1,500-meter finals.
In a race to the finish line, she finished seventh in her heat─ one half-second behind the fifth place finisher ─ and 15th overall.
“Any competitive person, and Blanca is no different in that she wants to be in the finals she was disappointed that she didn’t make it,” Forde said. “But I think she realizes that she gave herself a great chance to be in that final event and it just didn’t turn out the way that she wanted it to be.”
In a race packed full of highly talented runners, Fernandez’s inability to separate from the pack hurt her in the end.
“She just couldn’t seem to get that opening,” Forde said. “But that’s racing. You get trapped and there’s nothing that you can do but it was a gallant effort on her part.”
The NCAA championships was Fernandez’s last event for Temple this season.
Since joining the Owls from Spain in January, the mid-distance runner has tallied a number of notable achievements which include a 12th place finish in the mile at the Indoor Track and Field National Championships.
“I think she’ll come back to feeling good about the effort that she gave and the kind of season that she’s really had,” Forde said. “From January to now, you’re really fascinated by what she’s done.”
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.