Off and running
Published 12:09 pm Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Danville grad finds success at Indiana Tech
By LARRY VAUGHT
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Lisa Voyles’ journey to becoming a 16-time All-American in track and cross county as well as a multiple NAIA national track champion has been far from ordinary.
“I did not do any sports at all. I was disinterested. I did not care. If you brought up sports, I zoned out,” said Voyles, who runs for Indiana Tech.
That changed her sophomore year at Danville High School when a friend talked her into trying out for the tennis team with her. Since she lived close to the tennis courts and actually had a tennis racket she had bought at a yard sale, she gave it a try and liked it even though her friend quit.
Then another friend wanted her to try soccer her junior year.
“I was so shy and it was terrifying to think about actually playing in front of people. But I caved in and joined the soccer team,” Voyles said. “She quit but I stayed because I finish what I start and I loved the training, especially two-a-days. Our coach noticed I could really run and said I needed to join the cross country team but I was shy and never did that.”
However, in the spring of her junior year she did decide to join the track team — the first sport she opted to try on her own.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” Voyles said. “I knew immediately it was right for me. I felt so motivated. I never considered I would be running in front of people but I still did it even though I had so much anxiety. It was terrifying at times. I cried before every race but I pushed myself to get out and compete.”
Unfortunately, she quickly developed shin splints because she did not have the right shoes. However, she worked hard at rehab and became one of the fastest runners in the region to qualify for the state meet where she got her first college recruiting contact.
“I didn’t even know what that meant,” she said.
That helped inspire her to join the cross country team at Danville her senior year.
“My mom literally thought running cross country meant running across the whole country literally and would always tell me to quit because it was too hard.”
Her family moved away from Danville but she stayed behind to live with Denise Parr, a lady in her neighborhood who lived alone. Voyles often stopped to visit with her after soccer practice and Parr was the one who bought her first running shorts.
“The only thing I had was jeans and regular clothes. I never had any sports gear. She took me shopping and got me some sports stuff,” Voyles said.
Voyles ran a personal best of 20 minutes, 19 seconds in a 3.1-mile (5K) cross country meet and started getting more college offers. She eventually got a full scholarship to the University of the Cumberlands. She transferred after one year to Indiana Tech and her resume is full of accolades.
• Three-time national champion in the 1,000-meter run and one-time champion in the 800, 4×400 relay and distance medley relay.
• Two-time national runner-up in the 800 run.
• Two-time All-American in the 4×800 relay, mile and distance medley relay.
• Three-time All-American in cross country (she was sixth overall in the 2022 NAIA Championships after finishing 23rd and 14th the two previous years).
• Indiana Tech record holder in the 800 (indoor/outdoor), distance medley relay, 4×800 relay (indoor/outdoor), 1500, mile and 1000.
Here are her personal bests in her various events: 400 (56.3 seconds as her split at nationals), 600 (1:33), 800 (2:08.1), 1000 (2:48.46), 1500 (4:27), mile (4:50) and 3000 (9:55).
She could become the first person in NAIA history to win the 1,000-meter run four straight years if she wins this year.
“That is a big, big goal,” Voyles said.
Voyles never expected sports to change her life so dramatically. She now stays with Veronica Crawl and Tom Martin in Danville when she’s not in school since Parr passed away in 2021 during her freshman year of college.
“They have helped me grow in so many ways emotionally and spiritually,” Voyles said. “Sports have taught me so many life lessons and have even helped spiritually with how I handle my battles and the good stuff. If my anxiety is high before a race, I just pray that I can make the most of the opportunity and trust in God.
“For my soul to be right and perform my best, I know I need him. God asks us to be humble. I try to always encourage and congratulate competitors. There is more to it than just winning. I love and care for the people I compete against. I am just thankful God led me down this path.”
She’s majoring in exercise science with a concentration in strength and conditioning. She knows the career path she wants to pursue.
“My goal is to go into coaching for middle distance and long distance training,” Voyles said. “I love it so much now I cannot imagine leaving it and never would I have thought it would have ever turned out for me to be on this career path like it has.”