By Kirsten Hatton Contributing writer
When you need more than one hand to count your injuries or you start using fractions to tally them, you can tell that you are not unfamiliar with injuries.
That is the case for Susquehanna senior Keirnan Dougherty, who has had six and “a half” stress fractures. She considers one a half fracture because it was a stress reaction.
Dougherty, a 21-year-old from Dalton, Pennsylvania, is a four-year member and now captain of the Susquehanna women’s cross-country team. Even though Dougherty has physically not been able to run many races, she still earned the title of captain for her commitment and love for the team. Her injuries forced her to watch race after race from the sidelines.
“When it comes to team support, I can always count on [Doughtery] to cheer on her teammates during a race,” junior Kailyn Reilly said. “She always manages to make it around the cross-country course or on the sidelines of the track to provide race strategies or words of encouragement. Not to mention, she is always there at the end of our races with a positive attitude and a lending hand,” she added.
“As a teammate, it motivates me to make sure others don’t get injured and even though I’m not an asset to the team always by competing, I want to be there for my teammates support-wise, help them out in other ways even though it’s not gaining points for the team,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty puts her teammates before herself. Last year, Dougherty decided to run the Landmark Cross-Country Championships in Long Island, after spending yet another season with a stress fracture because she wanted to support the team even though only runners who were competing during the year were qualified to go. Even when Dougherty was abroad in Granada, Spain, in spring 2016, she still made sure to keep in contact with the team.
Dougherty began her running career at age 13 when her middle school track team needed members. She went out for the team on a Monday, and they had a race the next day. She says she could barely finish the race, but it was at that moment that she fell in love with the sport.
Her first stress fracture occurred in her foot in 10th grade. Injuries continued to occur almost every year of high school with fractures in her hip and shins. As Dougherty decided to continue to run in college, she again had fractures in her hip and both shins. Dougherty has never been healthy enough to make it to the outdoor track season. The doctors told her the injuries are a result of her body maturing over the years and the way that her foot strikes on the pavement.
“It has definitely taught me that I cannot take the ability to run for granted. There is nothing quite like running; cross training does not really get you in as good of shape as running does. It has taught me to appreciate the times I am able to go out on a run and I appreciate the times I am able to compete,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty is currently in the recovery process of her sixth stress fracture. She had to go to the doctors over the summer after feeling pain again in her shin. On Sept. 26, she ran her first mile in over three months on the track with no pain. She hopes her shin will continue to improve and not flare up.
“I really do love running,” Dougherty said. “I also think of people I know who have bounced back from injuries in order to do things they love. Just knowing that people have overcome injuries worse than mine wants me to keep bettering myself.”
Dougherty, now a captain of the team, is a confident in every member. Many of the girls feel they can turn to her for advice on many running topics.
Dougherty is not bitter about her injury history.
“People who do not go through injuries take the sport for granted and their ability for granted,” she said. “However, as soon as you start being injured you have a completely new appreciation for what it means to be an athlete and what it means to compete. I would tell them it is making them a stronger person even if it does not seem like it. They will gain something out of it, even if they are not able to compete.”
“I hope to be able to compete again,” Dougherty said. “I am coming in late to the game when it comes to training. If I am able to compete and get in a few races, even if it is cheering people on in a race, that is what matters most, being there for the teammates and helping them become the best runners they can be as well.”
Dougherty hopes to compete in the Landmark Cross-Country Championships on Oct. 29.