Iowa native Lolo Jones will compete in the finals of the Olympic 100-meter hurdles today. The 26 year old Des Moines Roosevelt grad might not have made it there, if not for the generosity of other Iowans.
For example, Marilyn Hauk of Des Moines and her former husband gave Lolo a place to live when she was a junior in high school. At the time, Jones was being recruited by college track coaches across the country and her mother was moving to Forest City.
"Part of the reason we wanted to take her in is that we knew Lolo had the potential to be where she is today," Hauk explained. "We also knew that taking her out of her school and away from her coaches could ruin any chance she would ever have of utilizing that potential."
Hauk says they barely knew Lolo at the time. She was on the Des Moines Area Youth Track Club, as was Hauk’s then 10 year old son. Hauk admits it was a "risk" taking a 17 year old girl into their home. "But at the same time, looking at a teenager who’s whole life was on the line, we decided it would be a bigger risk to do nothing," Hauk said.
Hauk’s quick to point out that Jean and Kim Walker, and later Janice Caldwell, would also welcome Lolo into their homes. A Des Moines orthodontist, Dr. Dennis Kommer, reduced the cost of braces for Lolo and attorney Dwight James handled paperwork, free of charge, to make sure she was covered under Hauk’s health insurance.
As Hauk says, "Central Iowans deserve a pat on the back. It was their kindness that helped Lolo get to Beijing." Hauk says Jones hasn’t forgotten her Iowa roots. Recently, Jones donated $12,000 to flood victims in Cedar Rapids.
Jones’ success on the track this year almost didn’t happen. After missing the cut for the 2004 U.S. Olympic team, Jones considered quitting track, since she wasn’t making much money in the sport. Jones has degrees in both economics and Spanish from Louisiana State University, where she received a full ride scholarship to run track.
"She’s fully qualified to have done anything she wanted to do," Hauk said. "But she followed her heart…this is what she wanted to do. I’m so glad for her that it’s paying off." Jones is hoping her hard work will pay off in the form of a gold medal today in Beijing. She posted the fastest time, at 12.43 seconds, in Monday’s semifinals.
special note: The 9:30 a.m. (Iowa time) race will not be televised live…however, it will be broadcast by NBC during it’s prime-time coverage tonight between 7-9 p.m.