Runner Lisa Koll Uhl

April 6, 2010

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[Note: this article is from 2010 and refers to Lisa by her maiden name throughout.  I have changed the title to include her married name in an effort to make it easier for fans to find this article.]

I am an alumnus of Iowa State University and a former high school track athlete (albeit a slow one).  Thus,  I am  following the career of Iowa State runner Lisa Koll with considerable interest.

Koll won exactly zero state titles in high school.  She has made up for this by adding several NCAA titles to her resume.

The most recent record breaking performance by Koll was on March 26 at the Stanford Invitational (outdoor meet).  Koll posted a time of 31:18:07 for the 10,000 meters.  She won the race by 28 seconds.  If you don’t think this is impressive, stare at your watch for 28 seconds.  That’s quite the lag time between first and second place.  She broke the collegiate record by more than 8 seconds.

The NCAA also keeps a record of the fastest collegiate performances by Americans.  Many of the elite NCAA track performers are athletes from other countries who are attending college in the U.S.  Koll’s time was more than 59 seconds faster than the previous record for an American collegiate performer – 32:17.10 by Christine McMiken in 1986.

Koll was battling an injury last year and finished a mere 9th in the 10,000 meter run at the NCAA outdoor championships.  In 2008, she won the title with a time of 32:44.95.  In other words, she has sliced 86 seconds off a time that was already good enough to win a national title!

Koll is not a one trick pony, though.  She recently won the women’s 5000 meters at the NCAA indoor meet.  In the Big 12 conference indoor meet, Koll set a new collegiate record in the 5000 meters.  Her time of 15:41.57 was more than 17 seconds faster than the previous record.

Koll also finished second in the 3000 meters at the NCAA indoor meet.  She had run the 5000 meters the prior day; her main rival had not (and was thus fresh for the 3000 race).  Koll was edged by 0.12 seconds in the race.  She had dominated the event at the conference meet.  Her time in the 3000 meters at the Big 12 meet was “just” the third fastest collegiate time for that event.  At the conference meet, she finished more than 22 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor.  This is an enormous margin for a relatively short race.

Distance runners tend improve after their collegiate years, so it’s likely that we haven’t yet seen the best of Koll.  As a point of comparison, the current national record of 30:22.22 for the 10,000 meters was set by Shalane Flanagan when she was 27 years old (that record is an impressive 28 seconds faster than the 2nd best runner).  At this point, Koll is “only” the sixth fastest American woman ever.  If she can improve her time by 5 seconds, she would jump into the 4th spot.  A half dozen years of improvement after college, and perhaps she’ll grab the national record.   The current world record is 29:31.78 – could this possibly be in play?

Watch for Lisa Koll in the 2012 Olympics and beyond!

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