Three weeks into the cross country season, Blanca Fernandez has proven she can succeed on any surface.
In her first year on the Owls’ cross country team, the senior has back-to-back first place individual finishes at the Big 5 Invitational and Main Line Invitational.
In the last two weeks, she topped Villanova’s six-time All-American Angel Piccirillo and Ashley Montgomery from the University of Pennsylvania, who qualified for the 1,500-meter at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2014 and 2015.
“She’s gone up against a very good field,” assistant coach James Snyder said. “With a couple of girls from Villanova who have been there before, she took the win. That’s just the type of athlete she is and an indication of the type of training she’s put in since she’s been here.”
Fernandez, who is from León, Spain, transferred to Temple in January 2014. She competed in the Under-23 division at the national level before coming to Temple.
This fall, she is adjusting to a different course length during collegiate cross country races.
“We’re used to 8K and here it is 6K,” Fernandez said. “The races in my country are much more different. We don’t have too many girls on our team under 23, so we run against seniors. The first season was crazy.”
Last year, Fernandez earned second team all-American honors in both the indoor and outdoor track seasons. She broke Temple’s record in the women’s 800-meter, 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000.
She was also the first Owl in 28 years to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in June, finishing the 1,500-meter preliminary race in 4:19.62, breaking her own school record of 4:19.86.
In the school’s history, Temple has never had a woman from its cross country team qualify for the cross country NCAA Championship, but Snyder said Fernandez might be the first.
“I think she has a very good chance at being at the front of that race,” Snyder said. “The expectation for her is to be an all-American this fall.”
In Spain, Fernandez dealt with humid conditions during her running career. She said the warm weather of the past two weeks improves her performance.
“I feel much better in these conditions,” Fernandez said. “It is much easier and what I am used to. The weather was also good last week, but less cooler.”
Snyder is confident Fernandez’s results will improve as the season goes on, and he suspects she has already set a good model for the team’s future.
“She’s national class, and I would probably go so far to say she’s one of the best athletes to put on a Temple uniform regardless of sport,” Snyder said. “I think she is going to stand by the time she finishes here as one of the greats.”
Mark McCormick can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MarkJMcCormick.