AMES – Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Lisa Koll is ready for a repeat performance of last year’s NCAA Outdoor championships. That’s bad news for the rest of the 10,000-meter field, whom Koll ran circles around last June at Drake Stadium, easily winning the event and lapping all but five competitors.
The Iowa State star will try to defend her title Thursday night in Fayetteville, Ark. The race is scheduled for 8:55 p.m.
“I feel just as good as I did last year, if not better,” Koll said. “And I’m less tired. I haven’t raced as much so I feel like I can put a lot more effort into the race.”
Injury forced Koll out of all but one race during the indoor season.
She went to California for a race the weekend of Drake Relays and last month won her third Big 12 Conference 10K title and also won the 5K. That’s been it.
Koll says she’s over the injury problems, which developed in her sciatic nerve and caused pain in her legs, hip and lower back.
The Fort Dodge native again comes into the race with the top qualifying time. Koll is the favorite to repeat, though maybe not as big a favorite as last season, when she finished in a time of 32 minutes, 44.95 seconds.
“It was kind of expected for me to go in and win it,” she said. “I feel that pressure again. I’m confident, but there are a lot of girls out there who are really good and have been training just as hard as I have. It should be fun.”
The injuries are only part of Koll’s story this year.
She breezed through undergraduate work and is in her first year of veterinary school, which has added a new element to her training and the time she’s able to devote it.
Koll ran out to an early lead in last year’s event. She can do that again if she wants to, said ISU coach Corey Ihmels.
“She’s going to be the one who’ll dictate the race,” Ihmels said. “We’ll see how the first couple of laps unfold and if nobody wants to get out and run, then we’ll run.”
Koll will be joined by teammate Grace Kemmey, who took 10th in the 10K last year.
ISU senior Kiel Uhl will run the men’s 10K. Uhl, who prepped at Des Moines Roosevelt, was the last runner to qualify.
“If there’s one guy in the field who wants to prove he belongs, it’s him,” Ihmels said.
Hillary Bor has a good chance to improve on his fourth-place finish from a year ago in his 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Junior Jenna Caffrey has made the 100-meter hurdles field for the second time.
Two Cyclones – Betsy Saina in the 5K and Luke Pinkleman in the shot put – are making their NCAA debuts this week.
Koll has another year of track left. A big race Thursday night could set the stage for something pretty special a year from now.
“I’m expecting to run well and run my race,” Koll said. “Whoever wants to come, is going to come and it’s going to be a fight to the finish.”