By: Nicole Gaffney
Annie Woolley has qualified for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 60-meter hurdles this year. The meet will be held March 10-11 in Naperville, Illinois and is a competition of the top Division III track and field athletes from across the nation; it is the highest form of collegiate competition that athletes strive for. To qualify for the NCAA championships athletes must be ranked in the top 20 in the nation for their event. Woolley is currently ranked 2nd in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.83 seconds.
Though this is the first time that the junior captain has qualified for the meet it is not the first time that she has been a contender for a spot. In the 2016 spring track season, Woolley ended her season one qualifying spot away from attending the national meet. This year was much different after the hurdler had her biggest break through yet at the 2017 Division III (DIII) New England Championships where she placed 2nd overall. Before this meet the fastest time Woolley had ever run was 9.12 second; dropping almost .4 seconds in such a short race is impressive but Women’s head coach Jamie Aubuchon wasn’t surprised saying “she always rises to the occasion with great competition.”
Woolley’s plan for the rest of the season leading up to the national meet is to take the weekend following the DIII New England Championships off from competing and then race one more time at Tufts for the last chance of improving her time before flying out to Illinois. There she will see some familiar faces as she steps onto the blocks, for instance, ranked ahead of her is Allison Hill from Bates College, located in Lewiston, Maine. Hill claimed her qualifying spot by edging out Woolley at the DIII New England Championships by placing first. Woolley hopes that by already having the experience of racing top competition it will keep her relax and confident leading up to race.
This is only Woolley’s fourth year running track and she described her most successful season yet as “mindboggling.” As she moves forward as the best hurdler Fitchburg State has ever seen she keeps a humble demeanor saying, “I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point where I feel like I’m the best. I’m still that kid who started track my junior year of high school. I’m still learning.” Taking the advice of the Men’s head track coach, Jim Jellison, Woolley plans on having fun and focusing on herself, not her competitors. Her attitude and persistence has inspired her fellow teammates and coaches who continue to support her as she trains for nationals.
So tune into the rest of her season by following the track team’s twitter account @FSUfalconsTFXC and watch Woolley race to the top.