The Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) announced it has renamed its annual Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award in honor and memory of former Luther student-athlete Johanna Olson.
The action comes after legislation was introduced and passed by the Conference's Management Council in November. The proposal received final approval from the Iowa Conference's Presidents Council yesterday.
The Olson family released this statement: "We are so proud of Johanna's accomplishments on the cross country course, track and in the classroom as well as her positive attitude and the way she lived her life all while battling brain cancer. Johanna not only had a passion for running, but also for learning, giving, sharing her talents and for living. Johanna embodied all of the characteristics of a great student-athlete, and she was honored to be named the Scholar-Athlete of the Year in its inaugural year. We would like to thank the Iowa Conference and the Duane Schroeder family for honoring Johanna's memory by renaming the award the Johanna Olson Female Scholar Athlete of the Year."
"Although I never met Johanna in person, I did have the pleasure of exchanging emails with her," said Chuck Yrigoyen, Commissioner of the Conference. "I was struck by her passion for running, for her alma mater, and for her competitive days in the Iowa Conference. Now, that passion is memorialized for all time."
A native of Wadena, Minn. Olson won the 2000 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship three years to the day after her initial brain surgery. She was a seven-time All-American and three-time Academic All-American in both cross country and track and field, as well as a four-time Academic All-Conference selection. In addition to the national title in cross country, she won three Iowa Conference Individual Championships and three IIAC Most Valuable Runner awards (1999, 2000, 2001). In track and field, she was the 2001 IIAC Most Valuable Performer, earning All-America honors in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter runs. She was a member of the 2001 distance medley relay team that captured the indoor national title.
She was named the United States Track Coaches Association (USTCA) regional and national Athlete of the Year in both cross country and track and field in 2000-01. In 1999, Olson was presented the Honda Motor Awards Inspirational Athlete of the Year after returning from radiation treatments to compete at the national level.
Olson graduated with a 3.71 grade point average as a health major with a double minor in physical education and biology. She attained dean's list honors each semester at Luther and was selected Health Major of the Year in 2000-01. Following her graduation from Luther, Olson earned a master's degree from Oregon State University and remained in Oregon to work as an exercise physiologist at Central Oregon Community College in Bend.
She was a U.S. Olympic Marathon trials qualifier in 2004 (45th place) and 2008 (46th place). Olson was also multiple-time participant in the Twin Cities Marathon, placing as high as seventh in 2003 (2:43:27). She participated in her final Twin Cities Marathon in October 2012, finishing in 5:09:54 despite undergoing treatment for a recurrence of her tumor.
Olson's battle with cancer lasted for over 15 years before she passed Jan. 3, 2013, at age 33. She was originally diagnosed with a brain tumor as a college freshman in 1997.
The Iowa Conference's Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award will retain the name of the late Duane Schroeder - the longtime Wartburg College sports information director who served the Iowa Conference as sports information director (1966-1990) and secretary/treasurer (1990-2001).