Each day is a balancing act for Iowa State's Lisa Koll.
The senior is not only leading a Cyclone cross country squad that has high hopes going into the season, but is excelling in the classroom as well.
Koll earned her bachelor's degree in just three years, an accomplishment considering the time demands of a Division I competition. Koll graduated with honors and is now approaching the midway point of Iowa State's veterinary medicine program.
Koll redshirted a season ago, taking time off to rest up and adjust to the rigors of the vet program.
"Last year was hard because I was healthy but redshirted because we have a better team this year and I was getting used to vet school," Koll said. "It was a decision that was made for my future benefit. I'm excited to get after it again and am ready to get going."
Koll's first cross country meet of the 2009 season will be her first in almost two years, but the time off has allowed her to start the season at 100 percent, even after battling injuries during last year's track and field season.
"I still have some aches and pains but nothing that is preventing me from training," said Koll, who runs 90 to 95 in weeks where Iowa State doesn't have a meet. "I've been at full millage for almost six weeks and I'm getting better and better every week."
The Cyclones will need Koll at her best as expectations are high in Ames. Iowa State clocks in at No. 28 in the first set of cross country rankings by the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association.
"We are going to surprise a lot of people," Koll said. "We are going to be better then we even think we are going to be. We have a great group of girls and everyone has made steps forward. There is a new standard on our team. People don't accept being mediocre, everyone wants to be great. We have a lot of talented people; this is going to be really exciting."
Even with another season to go, Koll has already cemented herself as one of Iowa State's all-time greats. She is a two-time All-American in cross country and claimed back-to-back titles in the 10,000 meters at the Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Despite being away from the cross country action for a season, Koll has quickly picked up the responsibility of being a team-leader whose actions speak louder then her words.
"I'm a lead-by-example person," Koll said. "I'm vocal when I need to be, but people are going to imitate you when they see you doing well."
Koll can remember upperclassmen taking her under their wing when she was a freshman and is looking to do the same with the talented group of youngsters on the Cyclone squad.
"This year it's all about being a part of the team and really feeling that I know everyone on the team now that I'm a senior," Koll said. "I just want to be open and be there for anyone on the team. That's my goal for this year, to pass down what I know to my teammates."
Iowa State will host its first and only home meet of the season on Saturday at the Iowa Intercollegiate. Both Koll and the Iowa State women, and also the 25th ranked Cyclone men, will compete in the race.