Queen B-laney

Career Capped Record Recognition Blazing Blaney

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – Her name dominates both the cross country and track and field record books. Over the last five seasons, she's set – and then broken – records from the fall to the spring. Known as the Queen of UCF Distance, Anne-Marie Blaney has left her mark on the UCF program.
But six years ago, none of those accomplishments even seemed possible.
"In high school, you don't know what your opportunities are," Blaney said. "During my senior year in high school, my coach started getting letters in the mail, showing interest in recruiting me. That's when things started to become more real. I could go to college for running."
The Ocala, Fla., native visited six schools. Her first stop was UCF, and while she went on the remaining five visits, she knew that her decision had been made.
"UCF just fit me and what I wanted to accomplish overall," Blaney recalled. "It's been a journey ever since."
Blaney arrived in Orlando for her freshman season in the fall of 2012. In her first cross country season, she collected a pair of individual titles and set both the freshman 5K and 6K records.
In the spring, she was a member of the indoor and outdoor Conference USA championship squads. Not a bad start to her college career.
As smooth as everything went during her first year as a Knight, it seemed to reverse course heading into her second season on campus.
First came a coaching change, as then-head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert headed west and head coach Jeanette Bolden and assistant coach Johnny Gray arrived at UCF.
"I was nervous at first because I didn't know who we were going to get," Blaney admitted. "I thought that I might have to transfer. I'm really glad that I didn't, because Coach Gray has been an awesome coach. I've broken every (personal record) each year ever since then."
Blaney continued to get stronger as a sophomore, picking up four cross country individual titles – including the inaugural American Athletic Conference crown.
But in the winter, she began feeling pain in her knee. The decision was made to redshirt the indoor track and field season, starting a three-year cycle of sitting out one campaign in each of her sports.
"Redshirting seems like a negative thing, but it has turned into a positive for me," Blaney said. "I redshirted one season every year until my fifth year and figured out how to manage my injury."
She sat out during the outdoor portion of the 2015 campaign and the 2016 cross country season. By the time the 2016-17 academic year rolled around, she was ready to compete in all three to close out her career.
Over her five-year career, she has racked up an astounding 18 weekly league honors. She became the first Knight to qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championship, which she did in both 2014 and 2016.
The accolades don't stop there.
She became UCF's first distance runner to reach All-America status, earning second team accolades in 2016 and first team laurels in 2017. A three-time indoor 5,000-meter and two-time outdoor 10,000-meter champion, she picked up the USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week award in the fall of 2017.
And those are just a few on the long list.
Becoming the most decorated distance runner led to a nickname that causes some discomfort for the humble runner.
"It's kind of crazy (to be called the Queen of UCF Distance)," Blaney admitted. "I just want to lead the way for everyone else. I know whoever breaks the records after me worked just as hard – or harder – and they deserve it. Having that nickname just shows how hard I've worked and how it pays off. People notice when you do well."
Though her collegiate career has officially capped, Blaney is not quite ready to hang up her spikes.
"I feel like I've reached new levels this year," Blaney said. "I feel like I'm faster and I'm better, so I want to see what more I can do and take it to the next level. This has been a great base, but now I want to see what I can do in the future."
Health and time-willing, she plans to invest the next three years to training for the 2020 Olympics.
As a senior at Belleview High School, it was hard for Blaney to imagine a collegiate career. Fast forward six years and not only has Blaney completed one of the most successful collegiate careers at UCF, but she now has professional aspirations.
"I've really enjoyed it," Blaney said. "I couldn't imagine going to college and not participating in collegiate sports or not being on this team."

Blaney acknowledged that becoming a Knight was one of the best decisions for her. At the end of her career, she walks away with a lifetime of memories with her teammates and appreciation for the support of Knight Nation.
"It's awesome to be noticed by people who are passionate about the sport. They make a bigger impact on us. All of the support on social media and all of relationships that I have here at UCF is special. I get stopped in the hallway or around campus and they'll ask how we're doing. I think that's so awesome and it really does mean a lot."