May 23, 2016
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Will Dougherty knew he was within striking distance of the University of Iowa men’s decathlon record. All he had to do was put together a personal best performance in the 1,500 meters.
In the 10th and final decathlon event at the 2016 Big Ten Outdoor Championships, Dougherty trimmed nearly two seconds off his PR, won the race, and set a school record with 7,311 points.
“The 1,500 is a gutsy race,” Dougherty said. “It’s not something you train for a ton, but it is something where if you know what you have to do and you fight for it, you’re going to get it done.”
Dougherty finished in 4 minutes, 34.94 seconds, solidifying his eighth PR in two days (yes, eight PRs in two days) and a record-setting performance that was good enough for fifth place, the best ever for a UI decathlete at a conference championship.
“It has been such a rewarding year for me to put together a solid decathlon without any down events,” Dougherty said.
Make that no down events and a lot of consistency across the board.
“He is not great at any particular event, but he’s not bad at any either,” said UI assistant coach Molly Jones, who is in her third season coaching the redshirt sophomore. “He is a great person that is going to give you his best effort in every event. He is always going to compete and is looking to improve.”
Because of the wear the decathlon puts on the body, Dougherty had competed in just one meet prior to the Big Ten Championships. His first competition in 2016 was the Jim Click Shootout in Tucson, Arizona, where he failed to record a mark in the discus and scored 1,000 fewer points than his Big Ten total, a score that left plenty of room for improvement.
“I struggled in the discus all year, but I finally got a good throw (at Big Tens) and I kept progressing in every event,” Dougherty said. “I set three PRs on the opening day, but still found myself in 10th place against a talented field. I kept a positive attitude and took it one event at a time going into Day 2.”
By the time the second day ended with five more PRs, he jumped five spots in the Big Ten standings and four spots on the school’s record list, passing former training partners and friends Kyle Reid and Jack Eckert, who previously sat No. 1 and 2, respectively, on the all-time list.
“I walked into the locker room (Monday) and saw Kyle Reid’s name on the record board,” Dougherty said. “It still had not hit me that my name will be up there with 7,311 next to it, year 2016. It’s weird. I owe a ton to training with Kyle and Jack. Seeing their hard work pay off enlightened me to how much I have to put in to get what I want.”
The next thing Dougherty wants is an NCAA berth. Unfortunately he will have to wait another season. He was ranked 27th nationally and only the top 24 decathletes advance to the NCAA Championships.
“The goal for a lot of NCAA athletes is to make the national meet and to attain it this year would have been icing on the cake,” he said. “But I can still walk away with my head held high because of what I accomplished this year. It will give me the drive and push to get to that next level. I didn’t get to Eugene, but to get such a close nip at it, it shows me it is attainable.”