True to her roots

We were scrambling to complete Lisa (Koll) Uhl’s story following her Olympic debut on Friday.

The race was a late one in London. Uhl had performed brilliantly – clocking a personal-best time in the 10,000-meter run – but she finished in the middle of the pack and was the last of three Americans to cross the tape. The Associated Press covered the frontrunners only. There were no post-race interviews to pick up quotes or comments.

For a newspaper our size, reporting live from England was out of the question. Lisa had communicated with us via e-mail earlier in the week, but we weren’t expecting her to do so immediately after the biggest night of her life on the track.

And then it happened. At 1:06 a.m. London time, we receive an e-mail from Lisa. Four full paragraphs describing the event, her emotions, reactions and everything in between. She even thanked us for staying in touch, along with giving everyone back in Fort Dodge one more nod of appreciation.

All you need to know about Lisa Uhl was both literally and metaphorically in that message. She didn’t just take time out of her hectic schedule to keep all of us in mind – she did so at 1 in the morning, only a few short hours after competing for the first time as an Olympian.

I don’t know what is more surreal to me: that this former Fort Dodge Dodger is now one of the top distance runners in the world, or that she’s still the exact same person we all remember despite a meteoric rise to fame.

Eight years ago, Uhl was winning cross country races at area golf courses. Since leaving town, Uhl has become an All-American, an NCAA champion, a national record-holder and an Olympic athlete.

So much has changed, yet Lisa is still Lisa. As approachable and grounded as ever. A true role model for young and old.

We hope our week-long coverage of Uhl’s incredible journey did her justice. Our intent was to tell the story of not just an elite runner, but a world-class person.

Local residents are obviously proud of Lisa’s beginnings. It goes beyond having her name attached to our town, though. This isn’t just about Olympic ties – it’s supporting someone we truly care about because she still, to this day, truly cares about us.

Uhl is as driven and determined as ever to move forward. That won’t keep her from looking back with fond memories of home. Lisa’s career as a runner may continue to take her around the globe, but Fort Dodge will never be far behind.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at