Lisa Koll at less than 100 percent is better than most everybody else in a distance race.
Iowa State’s star runner completed a clean sweep of the distance events this past weekend at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships in Lubbock, Texas, winning the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races.
For Koll, who is the defending NCAA 10K champion, it was her third-straight conference title in the event. The junior entered Sunday’s 5K not having run one competitively in more than a year.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Koll said. “I wanted to get out there. I’m a rhythm runner so I was anxious to go out from the start and keep going.”
Koll has just recently returned to the track after battling an injury in her lower back and hip areas. Pain would shoot down her sciatic nerve, which forced the All-American to miss all but one race during ISU’s indoor season.
An attempt to run in the Big 12 indoor meet quickly ended.
“It’s not really something you can really race with,” Koll said. “It was really hard to sit out but I didn’t have a choice.”
Koll’s first race of the year came April 25 in Berkeley, Calif., against a loaded field, finishing in a time of 32 minutes, 43.85 seconds, which was the second-best mark for a collegian this season.
It also was the second best 10K time of her career. Amazing, considering the time she spent off the track working herself into shape.
“It had to believe in my talent,” said Koll, who hails from Fort Dodge. “It’s second nature now.”
The Cyclones took three of the top four spots in the 10K last weekend.
Freshman Betsy Saina finished in second, five seconds behind Koll, and Grace Kemmey took fourth. Koll and Saina – whom Koll called her “freshman angel” — also went 1-2 in the 5,000, with Koll winning in 16:33.12.
She’d been fourth and second in the event her first two seasons.
“It was great not only for me individually, but for the team as well scoring all those points,” Koll said. “It got us to a point we haven’t been in many, many years.”
ISU’s women’s team tied for seventh place, its third-highest point total ever at the conference outdoor meet and best finish since 2002.
Koll’s third consecutive title in the 10,000 was most sweet.
It’s a privilege to win it one year. To do it three years in a row says something about consistency,” she said. “You can still get better every year. That’s something I’m really excited about, and hopefully winning it next year.”
First things first. Koll is defending her 10K title at next month’s NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
She thinks her chances of repeating are pretty fair.
“In the next four weeks if I can get back to square one and get relaxed and get some good training in, I’ll be ready,” Koll said.