In between races at the men’s and women’s Big Ten championships, Bev and Jim Docherty swapped out their black and yellow Iowa Hawkeyes gear for maroon and gold Gophers gear.
The Dochertys were in West Lafayette, Ind., to cheer on their two youngest children — Kevin, a freshman runner for Iowa, and Laura, a senior for Minnesota.
Laura Docherty finished third overall for the Gophers and helped guide her team to a third-place finish overall.
“It was awesome watching her finish third,” Kevin Docherty said. “Seeing how far she’s come and what she’s been able to do, it’s been great to see.”
Gophers head coach Sarah Hopkins said Docherty didn’t start out as an elite-level recruit, but she’s worked her way to the top through steady improvement every year.
A running family
Both of Docherty’s parents and her older sister ran for Iowa, a tradition her younger brother has joined. Her older brother ran for Loyola University in Chicago.
Docherty joined her first track team in junior high and began running cross country in high school.
“[My parents] never really suggested it. They just kind of let us all find it on our own,” she said. “All of us played multiple sports and just enjoyed running the most.”
She said the sport didn’t require coordination, which was key for her.
Docherty found success in running and said she and her siblings bonded over the sport.
When it came to a college decision, Docherty first visited her parents’ alma mater. She said after her visit to Iowa, she thought that was where she would end up.
But once she visited Minnesota, she found she couldn’t say no to then-head coach Gary Wilson.
“He’s too much of a lovable guy,” Docherty said. “My dad was friends with him — it just felt like a natural fit.”
Wilson convinced Docherty that she didn’t want to go to Iowa, she said.
“He said, ‘Well, you don’t want to go to a junior college. So you should probably come here,’” Docherty said. “He always called Iowa a junior college.”
Bev Docherty said her daughter also liked the large size of Minnesota’s team.
Though choosing the Gophers meant going to a rival school, Docherty said it was a good fit for her.
“I think I made the right choice,” she said. “They don’t seem to hate me for it.”
Actually, it’s quite the opposite.
Her parents are ardent fans, and Docherty said she likes having them around for support.
And she’s not the only one.
“My teammates all like having them there, too, because my mom always whispers little cheers to people,” Docherty said. “They call her the ‘Gopher Whisperer.’”
While she still talks to her parents about running because of their deep understanding of the sport, she can’t run alongside them like she used to.
“Now, they’re a little too slow,” she said.
Docherty redshirted both her freshman cross country and track and field seasons, as most runners do at Minnesota.
Since then, she’s steadily worked her way up the ranks — something she credits to her patience and health.
“She had a really solid year last year, and that was sort of a tipping point,” Hopkins said. “But you could see signs as a sophomore and even as a freshman that she was going in that direction.”
Docherty finished sixth among Minnesota runners at the Big Ten championships her sophomore year, and she said that’s when she “finally developed the confidence to go along with everything else.”
She established herself as one of the team’s top runners last season and hasn’t looked back since.
Hopkins said Docherty is very “emotionally level-headed,” which helps her to not get too worked up about a good or bad result.
Docherty’s teammate and roommate Kelli Budd said Docherty is really confident, which helps her manage things when everything isn’t perfect.
“Even at times when a race hasn’t gone as well … she’s still kept her eye on what she really wants at the end of the season,” Budd said.
Though Docherty has placed first or second in nearly all of the Gophers’ races this season, there were some where she didn’t quite see the results she wanted.
Still, Docherty has been building toward a strong finish.
“To finally have it all feel like it’s coming together [at the] Big Tens and toward [the NCAAs] feels really good and reminds me to keep trusting in the program,” she said.