Trojan Lettermen’s Spotlight: Leah Thorvilson
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As a sprinter and triple jumper at Armstrong High School in Robbinsdale, Minn., Leah Thorvilson probably never imagined she would end up in Little Rock, Ark. When Kirk Elias called asking her to join the team at UALR, that is exactly where she completed her collegiate career and stayed. UALR became the stepping stone for her in every aspect of her life.
Cross Country and distance running might not have been Thorvilson’s forte, but her ability quickly became the anchor that led the UALR women’s cross country team to their first-ever Sun Belt Conference Championship title in 2001 and a repeat performance in 2002.
“Basically, a developmental athlete when she arrived at UALR, Leah Thorvilson made herself into a competitive, high level Division I athlete through hard work,” said Elias, former UALR cross country and track and field head coach. “She brought an enthusiasm and drive to practice that created energy for her entire training group. She is one of the very big reasons our women were able to win two conference titles in cross country. Her leadership in training and racing was invaluable.”
Although Thorvilson won a Sun Belt Conference title, earned All-Sun Belt and All-Region honors for cross country, and finished her career ranked in numerous categories, her most memorable experience as a Trojan doesn’t focus on herself but her team. “Probably when we won the cross country competition,” said Thorvilson. “I loved the team aspect of that. That win was more important. I was telling people about it, and they would say you won, and I was like our team won.”
Even though humility is one of Thorvilson’s best attributes, she was a strong and competitive athlete individually. That success followed her to the end of her career. “By the end of her career she won several conference titles and just missed qualifying for nationals in both cross country and indoor track,” said Elias. “During her career, she was the most improved female distance athlete in the NCAA.”
Thorvilson also excelled academically graduating in 2003 with a degree in Spanish. She earned Sun Belt Conference Commissioner’s List and UALR Dean’s List honors. “Leah was a pleasure to work with,” said Elias. “She was also a great teammate. Combined with her academic success, Leah epitomizes what NCAA athletics can and should be.”
As Thorvilson’s career roots sprouted in Little Rock as a sales representative for Sprint and a member of the Trojan Lettermen’s Association Board of Directors, her running career continued to grow as she recently won the Little Rock Marathon in March.
That race not only defined goals for her in the future but made her realize how the city of Little Rock has embraced her as one of their own. “Originally, my plan had been to run the half. I knew I would be talked into running the full,” said Thorvilson. “In the week leading up to the race is when I started going I need to try and win this thing.” Thorvilson finished the 26.2 mile course in 2:44.19 almost five minutes faster than second place. She won the marathon out of 520 female runners and finished 16th overall out of 1,382 runners.
“There is really no words to describe it,” said Thorvilson. “I don’t think it would have been as special anywhere else. I know I have people who support me and want me to win. You don’t realize how proud it really makes everybody else. It was kind of a sense of yeah I’m the hometown girl.”
As far as the future for Thorvilson, she would like to compete in the Olympic Trials in 2012 for the marathon. Wherever she goes, UALR will always be known as the starting line for her. “Basically my time at UALR is what made me want to do the marathon,” said Thorvilson. “Competing at UALR made me do what I want to do now in the marathons and completely changed who I was as a runner. That is what gave me the drive to want to run marathons.”
With one phone call, Thorvilson went from Minnesota to Arkansas and from a sprinter and jumper to a Sun Belt Champion and Little Rock Marathon winner. Thorvilson is Little Rock’s hometown girl.
Q&A with Leah
- Date and place of birth: January 9, 1979 in Robbinsdale, Minnesota
- Who would play you in a movie about your life? Kate Hudson
- What’s the most played song in your Ipod? After the marathon, there was only one place on the course that I remember hearing music until right at the end. It was Umbrella by Rihanna. On that day it was my favorite song.
- I put my whole heart into running.
- If I were stranded on a desert island, the three things I would have to have would be: beer, bacon, and bananas (and dental floss)
- I never start the day without my contacts.
- My proudest moment was probably winning the Little Rock Marathon.
- One word to sum me up is goofy.