When the Kansas State Track Meet concluded at the end of May, a select few athletes left Wichita State University beaming with pride after winning medals. Many others that didn’t place as high as they would like left disappointed, but were armed with motivation to make offseason improvements and turn it around next year.
However, Lauren Doll of Flinthills-Rosalia High School took her performance at state especially hard.
After qualifying for state in three events (The 100 meter run, 200 meter run and long jump) as a freshman in 2013 after just two months of running track, Doll and her family were expecting bigger things for her at the state meet in 2014.
Only, it didn’t quite work out that way. For reasons unknown, whether it was from her lack of technique at the time or just a bad day, Doll was unable to build off her previous state success.
“It was very painful,” Randall Doll, her father, said. “As any dad does, you want your kids to do well, and she was expected to do well. She’s kind of on the radar screen as one of the top 400 meter sprinters in the state, and it just hurt really bad to see her not perform well. It’s a life lesson and you can’t let it get you down, there are bad things that are going to happen, and that was a bad thing. But whether or not you’re a champion depends on whether you get back up and put the pads back on and look at a new goal.”
With the season over, the 16-year-old track star herself said she was devestated with the way things turned out.
“For a few days after I was pretty disappointed,” Lauren said. “If it was a regular track meet I would have blown it off and said ‘it’s ok, it’s just a bad day,’ but this was state, and it stuck with me for longer. But once we started training I realized that there could be more important things.”
But fortunately for the Dolls, an opportunity presented itself sooner rather than later. After Lauren’s older sister, Taylor, suggested to Randall (who coaches Lauren in the summer) that Lauren participate in a heptathlon – a grueling seven event challenge – Randall immediately thought this could be an exciting event that could help her move past the disappointment of the state track meet.
“I started researching and I thought, ok, the heptathlon, it’s seven events, I knew nothing about it,” he said. “And then I got to looking at the times and distances of last year’s regionals and a lot of the times and marks that she had been putting down were pretty competitive with the others.
“So I put it down on the kitchen table when we were eating dinner one night, it was a few days after state, and I said, I think you can be relatively competitive. You’re not going to get last, but you might not win. She goes ‘let’s do it.’ We’ve been training since.”
The heptathlon is no easy task, and as stated earlier, consists of seven track and field events, usually throughout the course of two days. The seven events include: 100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meter run, long jump, javelin throw and 800 meter run.
Lauren, who will be a junior this upcoming fall, said that ever since training began for the heptathlon, she slowly but surely began to put her regret behind her and focused on the upcoming mission. However, she didn’t completely forget about it, and used it as a motivating tool. She expressed that had she succeeded at the state meet, she probably wouldn’t have had nearly enough motivation that it took to participate in the heptathlon.
What was even more challenging for Lauren was the fact that for more than half of the events she’d be required to partake in, she had never competed in them before.
But through extensive training, Randall was able to prepare Lauren for the event, and quite frankly, she exceeded even his expectations.
“We thought maybe she’ll get anywhere from third through sixth, somewhere in that range,” he said. “But she did pretty good and got second, we were really jazzed about that. She ran faster and jumped higher than we anticipated her to do.”
After earning second place out of 10 girls (in the 15-16 age group) at the regional qualifying event in Joplin, MO., Lauren quickly erased all negative thoughts of just a few weeks earlier and qualified for the AAU National Junior Olympics.
The event will be held at Drake University on July 26th through August 2.
This no small feat, as according to Randall, the AAU has around 22 regional events nationwide, and only a select few qualify. Currently, 20 girls have signed up to compete in the event, but that number could grow by next week.
Lauren says it’s her goal to at least finish in the top 10 of this event, which shouldn’t be too difficult, as she is currently ranked No. 8 out of 20.
“My strategy is to do a little bit better on each event,” Lauren said. “Because if I do that, even though it’s just improving a little bit on each event it will raise my score a lot.”
Even though she’s competing in a big national event, Lauren said she won’t be nervous until the day of, even with the knowledge of performing well could bring in even more national exposure for the girl who fell in love with track just 13 months or so ago, and hopes to pursue it in college, either at Friends University or Wichita State.
Randall couldn’t refrain from expressing his excitement of the potential opportunity that awaits his daughter.
“This is a truly a national event,” he said. “That’s what’s kind of cool about it, is that she gets to compete against girls from all over the United States.”
The events Lauren said she is most confident in is shot put and the 200 meter run, while she’s nervous about the 800 meter run due to her dislike of long distances. Apparently it’s a sprinter thing.
Regardless of how she does later in the month, Lauren can hang her hat on how she put the recent disappointment of her state track showing to rebound with a bang at her first ever heptathlon. Both Dolls say that this is an incredibly exciting opportunity, and are embracing every moment.