Laura Docherty remembers being an awe-struck young runner during her redshirt season in 2010 watching other older members of the Gophers women’s track and field team chase down glory.
And now, well, Docherty is chasing down their records. The Gophers junior already broke the school record in the 10,000 meters this season, running the event in 33 minutes, 24.93 seconds to best a mark that had stood for 25 years. Now she’s aiming for the Gophers’ top mark in the 5,000 meters of 16:04.55 — set in 2010 by Megan Duwell, one of the athletes she used to be “too shy,” Docherty said, to run with in practice.
Docherty set a personal record two weeks ago at the NCAA regional meet in the 5,000 meters with a time of 16:10.63. She was the lone member of the Gophers women’s team to qualify for this weekend’s NCAA Championships and hopes to post a time under 16 minutes when she runs Friday in Eugene, Ore., which would break Duwell’s record.
“I have the attitude that if it happens, it happens. I mostly want to get out there and race,” Docherty said. “At championship races, it can be pretty strategic. You have to be prepared for everything. But I feel like I’m prepared to run fast.”
Docherty couldn’t say the same when she arrived at the U. The St. Paul native, who comes from a running family, said she ran more for fun at Cretin-Derham Hall; a pivotal moment in college came when longtime coach Gary Wilson told her she needed to start running the 10K if she wanted to “get on the bus,” Docherty recalled with a laugh. “I thought, ‘Well, I want to be on the bus.’ ”
On Tuesday, her mode of transportation was even better: an airplane bound for Oregon, where she’s aiming for at least a top-16 finish in the 5,000 meters. She’s not competing in the 10,000 meters at the national meet. Perhaps not surprisingly, the two distance races feature different strategies.
“The 10K is obviously much more grueling, especially mentally,” Docherty said. “The 5K, you look at it mile by mile. The first mile you kind of get into the race, the second mile is more of the racing part and the third mile is whatever you’ve got.”
So far this year, that’s been plenty.