Johanna 'Joha' Olson, Luther class of 2001, passed away Thursday night

The thoughts and prayers of the Luther College community are with the family and friends of Johanna "Joha" Olson, Luther College class of 2001, who passed away last night after battling for more than a decade with brain tumors.

The Luther Facebook and Luther Athletics Facebook pages will be updated with information on arrangements and where condolences can be sent as it becomes available.

Olson was inducted into the Luther College Athletic Hall of Fame for her extraordinary accomplishments in cross country and track and field.

The following is her Hall of Fame citation:

Johanna Olson's story as a runner at Luther is legendary. You simply have to

read the program to realize all of Johanna's amazing accolades as an NCAA

Division III runner. Team MVP, school record holder, several time conference

champion, seven-time All-American, three-time academic All-American and an

NCAA Post Graduate Scholar. Throw in two NCAA National Championships, and

I think it is safe to say that Johanna's career was more than "pretty good." While

running at Luther, Johanna exemplified the collegiate student athlete. She was

an outstanding leader for her teams and brought out the very best in everyone

she trained and raced with. Johanna's shining moment in cross country was

leading her team to a third place finish in the NCAA III National Championships,

and winning the individual title in 2000. Later in that same academic year, she

again achieved the ultimate in collegiate athletics by anchoring her Distance

Medley Relay to an Indoor National Track and Field Title.

These stories and numerous others that could be told about her amazing

accomplishments as a runner at Luther are special and unique in their own right.

Few collegiate athletes have careers as illustrious as Johanna's. What makes

HER STORY even more compelling is the reoccurring battle with a brain tumor

that Johanna overcame during her time at Luther College. Johanna was first

diagnosed with a brain tumor in the fall of her freshman year one week after

finishing second at the IIAC championships and leading her team to a title.

Instantly, her life changed. She was admitted to the hospital and underwent

surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Only one month elapsed

before Johanna began to run again, starting her journey back to being one of the

conference's best female runners. During her battle with cancer we all learned a

great deal about the person Johanna was beyond her incredible running ability.

We learned that she was as fierce and tough and determined as an individual

could be. We learned that in spite of this incredible setback to her running, this

young woman could be positive and uplifting and an inspiration to all of us. After

missing her sophomore cross country season due to a re-growth of the tumor

and daily radiation treatments at the Mayo Clinic, Johanna began one of the most

notable comebacks to running ever achieved by a collegiate athlete. In her

second full season as a cross country runner, Johanna led her team to another

conference championship and ended her season as an All-American leading her

team to a 15th place finish at the National Championships. In the spring of that

academic year, Johanna was given the prestigious Honda Inspiration Award. In

her third season of running cross country for the Norse, Johanna never... lost...

a... race... and finished her storybook season by winning the NCAA Division III

cross country national title on the third anniversary of her brain surgery.

Upon graduation from Luther with a degree in health education, Johanna

continued to train and race as an elite runner in road races and marathons. She

qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in October 2003 by placing third among the

American runners at the Twin Cities Marathon in a time of 2:43.27, well below the

qualifying time of 2:48.00. As one of the youngest American runners in the field,

Johanna, placed 44th overall among America's best runners at the Olympic

Trials in St. Louis in April 2004.

As a graduate student in exercise science at Oregon State University, she

continued to train and qualified for the Olympic Trials again in 2008. She earned

her master's degree that same year. Currently, Johanna is the exercise

physiology lab coordinator at Central Oregon Community College in Bend,


Many of Johanna's former teammates are here today along with her family to

honor her great accomplishments and Induction into the Luther College Athletic

Hall of Fame. Johanna, thank you for all you did to elevate the women's track

and cross country programs and for teaching us how to persevere through the

greatest of life's challenges and for inspiring us all to do the Unthinkable. You are

truly a Luther legend.

Betsy Emerson

Head Women's Cross Country Coach, 1989-2005

Presented at Luther College

Decorah, Iowa

October 15, 2011