Anna Bolgrien went from thinking about life in the fast lane to living life on the fast track.

The freshman from Duluth, Minn., was coming to Lawrence University last fall intent on swimming for the Vikings, but issues with her shoulders turned her to the track team.

“I was going to swim originally,” Bolgrien said. “My shoulders wouldn’t hold up so I decided to run, and I’m really, really glad I did. Once I talked to (head coach Jason) Fast … I knew it was a place I wanted to be.”

Fast is pretty pleased as well because Bolgrien is one of the Vikings’ top performers. She holds the top time of 1:06.63 in the league in the 400-meter hurdles heading into this weekend’s Midwest Conference Championships at St. Norbert College.

Bolgrien also ranks sixth in the league in the 100 hurdles (16.07 seconds) and will run on both the 400 and 1,600 relay teams.

“Based on Anna’s times from high school and knowing her training background, we anticipated she would be a contributor,” Fast said. “She’s definitely taken a step forward. Her times in high school would have placed her firmly in the top eight (in the conference). She’s taken her training and dedication to the sport to another level.”

Bolgrien credited the coaching staff with her improvement as she honed her technique and made the adjustment from the 300-meter hurdles in high school to the 400 hurdles at the collegiate level. She also has learned to win the mental battle in an event that features speed, technique, strength and flexibility.

“It’s really a race to the next hurdle,” Bolgrien said. “You’ve got to have something to distract yourself with. Can I beat that girl to the next hurdle? Can I cleanly hurdle this next one?”

No one’s been better in the league this season at clearing those mental and physical hurdles, and Bolgrien said her goal is to win the league title. Bolgrien, who is quickly closing in on Sarah Slivinski’s Lawrence record of 1:05.52, admits it is odd to be in the role of favorite.

“I’ve never really been put in that position so it’s exciting to see that I have the opportunity to (win a conference championship),” Bolgrien said. “I hope to drop a little time. If I can just PR that’s the best I can do.”

If past history is any indication, expect a big drop. At the MWC indoor championships in February, Bolgrien lowered her time in the 60 hurdles by a half-second and finished third.

“You saw her talent in how Anna worked every day, but you got a glimpse of how good she could be in the indoor conference meet,” Fast said. That’s when we knew she could be in for some big things.

“She definitely has the skill set to be competitive on the national level. When is that going to be, I don’t know. It could be as early as this year. She would need to take at least three seconds off her 400 hurdles time to get into the national meet.”

On the fast track

Both Lawrence track teams are looking to move up a notch or two at the MWC Championships. The women placed eighth last season and the men were ninth. Now in his third season as the head coach, Fast sees his teams getting deeper and more talented.

“I feel like last year towards the end of the season, because it was such a long winter, everyone was hanging on by a thread. You could tell because the men finished ninth and the women finished eighth,” Fast said.

“This year we have a full head of steam heading into the conference meet. Just about everyone on the team is performing at their best and ready to give a good effort.”

In addition to Bolgrien, the Vikings have several other women that could challenge for titles this weekend. Rose Tepper is a former champion in the high jump, and senior Emily Muhs is one of the league’s best in the 10,000 meters.

On the men’s side, Sam Stevens is one of the favorites in the steeplechase and also looks to place in both the 800 and 1,500. Freshman Nick Craker is ranked in the top eight in the league in both the shot put and discus, and senior Nick Kerkman is ranked fourth in the hammer throw. The Vikings could also do some damage in the 5,000 and 10,000 with the combination of Kyle Dockery and Curran Carlile.

Putting the hammer down

Kerkman broke his own school record in the hammer throw at the Viking Invitational last Saturday. Kerkman’s throw of 153 feet, 7 inches, broke his 2010 record of 145-1.

Big turnaround

With only Thursday’s doubleheader against Carroll University left, the Lawrence baseball team’s record stands at 14-19. That represents an 11-game improvement in the win column from 2011, and the most wins by the Vikings since the team won 14 games in 2006.

Lawrence needs two wins on Thursday to match the second-highest win total in school history. The 1979 team went 16-11, and the 1977 team went 21-10 to set the school record for victories.

Doares nabs pitching honor

Baseball standout Drew Doares has been named the Midwest Conference Pitcher of the Week.

The freshman from Holly Springs, N.C., earned the honor after tossing his second shutout of the season on May 5. In a 7-0 victory at Carroll University, Doares allowed only five hits, all singles.

The freshman pitcher struck out six and walked only one in a game that was completed in just one hour, 45 minutes. Doares allowed only two runners to advance as far as second base and none made it to third.

Doares, who also tossed a 1-0 shutout against Beloit College on April 21, improved to 4-5 on the season and lowered his earned run average to 5.20.

Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Sports Information Director Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.