GCU Junior Named Fiesta Bowl Queen
By Doug Carroll
Did you ever dream of a day when GCU would defeat Arizona State University and the University of Arizona?
GCU junior Lindsay Fernandez has made your dream come true. The 22-year-old from Peoria, a commuter student in the College of Health Sciences who aspires to be a cardiologist, is the new Fiesta Bowl Queen.Fernandez, the first woman from GCU to even make the finals in the competition’s 40-year history, was crowned on Wednesday evening, Oct. 6, before a packed ballroom at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort.
The other finalists were Lisa-Charisse Blanco, 21, and Emily Johnson, 20, both juniors at ASU, and Paige Hansen, 19, a junior at the U of A.
The stunning triumph by Fernandez — a busy student who didn’t even have a Facebook page until recently — capped a whirlwind month. She decided at the last minute to enter the competition, penning an essay on community service that wowed the judges and then making a lasting impression during a round of interviews.
“She was the first of 49 interviews,” said Armando Flores, a Fiesta Bowl board member who has been with the bowl for 14 years. “She was so poised and so communicative. She set a benchmark (for the other interviews).
“I know the profile of the typically successful ones, and she had all of that. Much of it was natural. After her interview, I told the others on the panel she had what it took.”
As queen, Fernandez will appear at a host of functions in the coming year, including three upcoming games — the Insight Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl and the BCS National Championship. She also will be featured prominently in the Dec. 31 Fiesta Bowl Parade.
She began her reign on Thursday with an appearance on the “Sonoran Living” show on KNXV-TV (Channel 15), and she was scheduled to be part of the festivities at Sunday’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in downtown Phoenix. The race, which benefits breast-cancer research, is one of several causes in which she has been involved.
On hand to witness her big evening were her boyfriend, Conley Graham, and her sister, Grace Fernandez.
Her father, Mario, an associate pastor at Vineyard North Phoenix, and mother, DaNetta, the church’s missions coordinator, were out of town for the graduation of Lindsay’s brother, Matthew, from Marine Corps boot camp at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.
The four finalists for queen all wore purple evening gowns, prompting one observer to speculate that a favorable outcome was in the cards for GCU.
“Go ’Lopes!” said the new queen afterward, still appearing to be in a state of shock as she did short TV interviews. “I really didn’t think I’d be in this position.”
Duane Woods, the Fiesta Bowl’s board chairman, was much less surprised.
“We look for someone who has that commitment to community service plus a track record of academic excellence. They also need to have poise and humility, because it’s about being a role model. They’re beautiful women, but we look for a lot more than that.”
Graham, an EMT who injured himself on the same mid-September day when Fernandez submitted her application, requiring a trip to the emergency room, joked about his role in the outcome.
“I’m glad I didn’t ruin anything,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun five or six months.”
Fernandez and the other finalists won $2,500 scholarships. All four of the women will represent the Fiesta Bowl in the coming year.
Fernandez said she’s looking forward to catching a ride with official Fiesta Bowl transportation. Her 2005 Honda Civic took a pounding from hailstones in the storm that hit the GCU campus on Tuesday.
“My car looks like it has cellulite,” she said.
Reach Doug Carroll at 602.639.8011 or [email protected].