By Ray Hamill — Lizzie Dolan’s first season competing at the collegiate level may have been cut short due to the ongoing Corona Virus crisis, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a successful one.
The 2018 McKinleyville High grad returned to the track this year after suffering a torn hamstring a year ago — and a misdiagnosis — and she came back with a bang, setting a lifetime PR in just her third race.
“When you’re out for so long, you’re not sure if you can ever run like that again,” Dolan said. “I was super happy to run that.”
The former H-DNL star, who set numerous school records at Mack High in hurdles and sprints, suffered the injury in December of 2018 in what she describes as a “random incident,” just a few months after leaving for UC San Diego.
“I just wasn’t warmed up enough,” Dolan said.
It was five months later, however, before the injury was diagnosed as a tear, rather than a strain, and Dolan was forced to take a medical redshirt in her freshman year.
This year, however, she came out stronger than ever, setting a PR of 14.63 seconds in the 100 meter hurdles in February.
She admits she had her doubts.
“When I was coming back into competition I was super nervous, especially in an event like the hurdles,” she said. “I thought ‘what if I’m going over a hurdle and I injure myself again.’
“There were so many doubts, but once I ran that first race, you come back from it and you feel so much better.”
Dolan, who intends on joining the Air Force after graduation, has settled into college life well, although she admits it took a while, especially moving to UC San Diego from a small community like McKinleyville.
“At first, figuring out to live away from family was hard, but now I love it,” she said. “It’s fun. I love the freedom of it.”
She also has settled in well to life as a collegiate athlete.
“The competition this year has been awesome,” she said. “It’s so nice competing against people with the same passion as you. You can see everybody loves what they do, and the motivation everybody has to see the team succeed.
“It’s like a big family.”
For now, the former Panther is back in McKinleyville, training on her own at the high school, where head coach Rudy Garcia has allowed her to use the hurdles at the school.
And her former coach is not surprised to see her succeed in college.
“What makes her special is her work ethic and her dedication,” he said. “Especially at a time like this right now. It’s not like she was backing down. She hit me up immediately when she got back. She has that drive and dedication.”
Dolan, who has changed her major to Ecology Behavior and Evolution, hopes some day to work in wildlife conservation and plans on doing an internship at the San Diego Zoo.
She also has ambitions on joining the Air Force, something she has been planning for most of her life.
For now, however, she’s just enjoying being fully healthy again and back out on the track.
“I’m excited for next year,” she said.