Annie Dougherty, a 1997 graduate of Soldotna High School, finished sixth in the mile Saturday at the NCAA Division II Track and Field Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.
Going into the meet, Dougherty had two goals -- to earn All-America status in indoor track for the first time and to break the five-minute barrier in the mile for the first time.
The North Dakota State junior accomplished both. Dougherty's time of 4 minutes, 56.58 seconds, easily put her ahead of the five-minute barrier. It also placed her sixth in the race. Since the top eight are All-America, the time also gave her that desired status.
The race was won by Western State senior Jennifer Michel. Michel ran a 5:01.77 in Friday's preliminaries, but then came back to run a 4:47.83 in the finals Saturday.
Dougherty was actually in 10th place halfway into the race, even though she ran her first half mile in 2:26. Her strategy of hanging back and picking off the weak worked over the second half of the race worked.
Dougherty's accomplishment comes after she missed the cross country season this fall due to arthroscopic surgery on her left knee in August.
Dougherty's performance helped the North Dakota State women to a third-place finish at the championships. They finished with 38.5 points, while St. Augustine's took the title with 63 points.
In Friday's preliminaries, Dougherty just missed crashing the five-minute barrier, coming in at 5:00.84. She finished fifth in her heat.
The top three in each heat advanced to the finals, plus the next four fastest times.
Dougherty advanced to the finals because her heat was much faster than the other heat. Her preliminary time was actually faster than the time that won the other heat.
This is not the first time Dougherty has come back from injury to turn in a strong performance. As a senior at Soldotna in 1997, she took two individual titles, two relay titles and helped the Stars to a team title after not qualifying for state track her junior year due to leg injuries.
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