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Koll-Uhl, Lisa

Published onAug 20, 2021
Koll-Uhl, Lisa

(August 31, 1987 — )

Quick Facts

Olympian an alumna Lisa Koll-Uhl’s athletic accolades in cross country and running are numerous.


Lisa Koll-Uhl started running in eighth grade the old-fashioned way. Growing up in Fort Dodge, Iowa, she had friends going out for the cross country team so she decided to join them. Koll had played soccer, volleyball, softball and basketball and her success was not immediate. Slowly she worked her way up the roster. By the end of her eighth grade season, she was the No. 2 girl on her cross country team.

Her segue to high school competition at Fort Dodge saw Koll-Uhl develop into one of the state’s better prep competitors. She produced PRs of 4:51 (1500m) and 10:16 (3,000m). She finished eighth at the state cross country meet and third in the 3,000 meters at the 2005 Iowa High School Championships.

Although not heavily recruited by NCAA Division I coaches out of high school, Lisa chose to continue her journey to becoming an elite distance runner and veterinarian at Iowa State University. Koll would become one the of greatest collegiate distance runners of all time. Her academic record would reflect the same level of excellence.

Koll-Uhl would earn All-America honors 11 times en route to winning four NCAA Division I individual titles. She was twice a Drake Relays champion and the first Big 12 Conference athlete to win the same event four straight years, doing so in the 10,000 meters (2007-2010).

2008 would be the year that Koll-Uhl would begin to make her mark on the U.S. collegiate, national and international scene. Indoors, she placed second in the 3,000-meter run at the NCAA Championships. On Jan. 26 in Ames, she clocked a 5,000-meter effort that ranked her eighth in the world that season.

On April 4, 2008 at the Stanford Invitational, she set the American Collegiate Record in the 10,000 meters (32:11.13). At the NCAA Championships in Des Moines June 12, Koll-Uhl led from start to finish to win the 10k at Drake Stadium, overwhelming the field to win in 32:44.95. The Cyclone lapped all but two of her opponents, including five runners that earned first-team All-America honors for finishing fourth through eighth. She finished eighth in the 10,000 meters June 27 in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore.

Her 2009 season was curtailed by injuries. Nevertheless, Koll-Uhl was able to win the 5,000 and 10,000-meter runs at the Big 12 Championships in May in Lubbock, Texas. She placed ninth in the NCAA meet’s 10,000 meter run.

Koll-Uhl’s 2010 season was prolific and historic in import. The Drake Relays 5,000 meter champion won three Big 12 individual titles. At the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, she won the 5,000-meter run and placed second in the 3,000 meters.

On March 26, in Palo Alto, Calif., at the Stanford Invitational, the meet at which she had set the American Collegiate Record two years earlier, Koll-Uhl upped the ante. She won the 10,000 meters in 31:18.07, the fastest time ever run by any collegiate athlete. The clocking would rank her as the fifth-best performer in the world at 10k for 2010 and came just two weeks after her NCAA indoor meet highlights.

The accolades continued. They were EARNED.

At the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., Koll-Uhl wowed a crowd not easily impressed by winning both the 10,000 meters (32:49:35) and the 5,000 meters (15:23.80). The 5K had a backstory. The 2009 NCAA cross country champion, Angela Bizzarri of Illinois, had edged out Koll-Uhl in the 3,000 meters at the NCAA indoor meet in March, content to run right behind the Cyclone and outkick the Cyclone in the race’s final dash.

Bizzari, who unlike Koll-Uhl had not run the 10,000 meters less than 48 hours earlier, toed the line with rival for the 5k. It became readily apparent that Bizzari’s strategy was going to be a copy of her plan from the collegiate indoor meet. This came as no surprise to Koll-Uhl and her Cyclone coach Corey Ihmels. Running a grueling pace, Koll-Uhl worked to make sure this would be no kicker’s race. At about 3,600 meters, Bizzari dropped out, her all or nothing strategy foiled by Koll-Uhl’s determination to win her third NCAA title. The worth of that effort was affirmed by a standing ovation from the Eugene crowd as she made a victory lap while shedding tears at the completion of her collegiate career.

Lisa’s athletic accolades are numerous. In 2010 she was a Honda Collegiate Sports Award winner, a finalist for the Honda-Broderick Cup and the NCAA Woman of the Year Award. She was named the Big 12 Conference’s Female Performer of the Year. Twice, she was selected Iowa State’s Female Athlete of the Year, one of four athletes in school history to earn the honor at least twice.

Koll-Uhl competed in the Areva meet on July 16, where she clipped to a 14:55.74 5,000-meter personal best performance that ranks her ninth at the distance on the all-time American list.

On Sept. 10, 2011 in Ames, Lisa Koll married Iowa State All-American distance runner Kiel Uhl.

Koll-Uhl was a target of the world’s top shoe companies and elected to pursue her Olympic and professional dreams in Oregon running under the Nike banner. Weeks after her triumphs in Eugene, she ran to a runner-up finish in the 10,000 meters at the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Des Moines.

Koll-Uhl set her sights on making the U.S. Olympic team that would represent America at the 2012 London Games. Indoors, her 15:29.85 clocking to win the Washington Invitational ranked her third in the world that winter.

The U.S. Olympic Trials 10,000 meters was run on June 22, 2012, a cool (some say cold), rainy Eugene day on the same track upon which she had experienced the pinnacle of collegiate achievement.

That afternoon, despite stopping to tie her shoe during the race, Koll-Uhl dashed through an increasing Hayward Field downpour to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in the 10,000 meters at the London Games. In the Olympic Stadium Aug. 3, 2012, she clocked a personal best 31:12.80 to place 13th in the Olympic 10k final. That effort currently ranks her seventh on the all-time U.S. 10,000-meter list.

Koll-Uhl was a qualifier for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials with a personal best 2:40.

Koll-Uhl’s athletic accomplishments were matched by her sterling academic record. The four-time CoSIDA Academic All-American earned her bachelor’s of science degree in biology summa cum laude in 2008.

Remarkably, Koll-Uhl’s pursuit of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree began before her junior athletic year of eligibility. After deferring the balance of her post graduate studies during her professional athletic career (2010-2015), she returned to Iowa State to earn her DVM in 2018 and begin her career in veterinary medicine.

Selected Sources

Articles in USA Today, Ames Tribune, Des Moines Register, Fort Dodge Messenger, ESPN.

Team USA profile:

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