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Lisbon does not have quite the same track pedigree as other towns across the United States, but Alex Wilson will add to, or perhaps start, that legacy at the USA Track and Field Olympic Trials this weekend.
The Lisbon High School and University of Northern Iowa graduate will chase Olympic dreams in the steeplechase in Eugene, Ore., but Wilson’s journey to the trials is a little different than most.
For one, she’s more of a 1,500-meter runner. She and Northern Iowa head coach David Paulsen decided to switch to the steeplechase because it would give Wilson a better opportunity to make the finals.
“The 1,500, at the time, was a little bit of a stretch for her to continue post collegiate and make a push for like the Olympic trials or a professional career,” Paulsen said. “She’s got a lot of range. She can run the 800 all the way to the 5K. The steeplechase kind of fit right in the middle there, I thought it would be a pretty good fit.”
Wilson lettered in track at Lisbon, and broke the 1,500 outdoor record at UNI her senior year. After graduation, the longer race, which involves running and jumping over barriers and has a water barrier as well, looked to be the most competitive for Wilson.
Her goal is to make the final of the 3,000 steeplechase, a goal Paulsen said is reasonable.
Wilson’s time of 9:50.07 is the 22nd fastest in the United States this year. Emma Coburn leads the nation with a 9:10.76. The Olympic Team might not be there this year, but Wilson said she will drink in the scenes of Tracktown, with the hopes it will provide valuable experience down the road.
“I’m just trying to enjoy every little moment of it because I don’t want to look back and be like, ‘man I wish I would have enjoyed that more or I wish I would have like, soaked it in more,” Wilson said. “I want to remember the terrifying parts, where I’m freaking out right before I race.”
Her race will come Monday, with the final Thursday. The former Panther said she never had a doubt about staying with Northern Iowa and Paulsen post collegiately.
There are training groups a plenty for post collegiate track and field athletes, but Wilson chose to stay.
Her argument, why fix what isn’t broken?
And she’s seen the return on the investment so far. She’s a part time assistant coach with the Panthers and still gets to train with the team and with Paulsen.
She worked another part time job but knew coaching was the career she wanted to pursue. She quit the second job to compete and coach full time.
“Why would I leave and go somewhere else? Especially when I’m not sure if it will pan out.” Wilson said. “I have a good support system in Cedar Falls. It’s my old team. I’ve got my coach. My family isn’t that far away.
“I got to continue to help out with coaching. I got really lucky, and then I’ve been able to work on my career as well as work on my running career.”
Her career path seems to be working out well, and the reality of her Olympic trial run will set in soon.
With the goal of making the final and running a personal best time this year, Wilson has her sights set on higher goals in the future.
“We’ve had a lot of goals over the course of the year,” Wilson said. “We’ve kind of been checking them off as we go.”