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Heart and desire

Uhl finds drive, competitive edge at early age

July 30, 2012

When she was seven years old, Lisa Uhl (Koll) liked to take trips to the local skating rink with her parents and older brother.

Uhl would watch and see her brother, James, win the limbo challenge week after week. That wouldn't last long, though, as Uhl began to practice and get better.

Soon, the youngster would pass her brother and set the limbo record, showing that burning desire and competitive edge that has propelled her into one of the elite runners in the United States.

Uhl, a 2005 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High, will run in the 2012 Summer Olympics on Friday, competing in the 10,000-meter run.

It wasn't just on the track where Uhl built that desire; it was at a very young age and at every thing that she attempted.

"Lisa is a self-made success,'' said her father, Jim Koll. "She deserves all the credit. She had a stubborn attitude as a child. When she was about five, she wanted to have her hair cut short. We told her to wait to find out if she was sure before she had it cut. She cut it herself without our permission.

"She wanted to be the best at everything she tried. She had many failures, but it never stopped her. She asked for help when she needed it. It was just the competition she needed and thrived on.''

Uhl tried many sports growing up: softball, volleyball, basketball and gymnastics, but with minimal success.

Running is something every kid does, and Uhl was no exception, but once she started, she never stopped.

"When she was about five, we started having races around the block for the neighborhood kids,'' Koll said. "She was the smallest and the slowest and got beat badly every time.

"But she went out and insisted we practice and it wasn't long before she was beating all the kids and they didn't want to race her anymore.''

Uhl's first road race was at six years old. She ran at Frontier Days from Oleson Park to USG and back with her father. She than ran some 5Ks with her father and started running organized track in seventh grade.

In her seventh grade year at Phillips Middle School, teacher Dave Newman got her to try out for cross country. She struggled to finish races, but she continued to push and practice, and was winning races and even set the Phillips Middle School record in the 1500.

Uhl's gradual climb up the ladder continued in high school, where she was a multi-time state qualifier in track and cross country.

But once Uhl hit the college scene in Ames, she exploded on the scene and started making a name for herself.

"She got better after high school because that summer she set a goal to make the team,'' Koll said. "She talked to her coach (Corey Ihmels) and he gave her a program of tougher training than she ever did before.

"She won her first race at Iowa State. She was convinced she could get much better and trained harder and longer and she lived the life of a runner.''

After college, Uhl realized that running is what she wanted to do, so she continued her trek to the professional realm.

"From there, she just kept setting goals, training hard, coming back from injuries and dedication,'' Koll said. "My wife, Leta, and I, and her brother, James, and her entire extended family are very proud of her.

"She is very humble and a very nice intelligent person.''

Now just days away from the Olympics, family and friends remember Uhl growing up and the competitive girl that turned herself into an Olympian.

"I want people to know that Lisa was not born a great athlete or just got lucky,'' Koll said. "When she decided she wanted to be the best, she worked at it. She believed in herself and worked hard.''



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