Luther College’s Johanna Olson Looses Her Battle With Cancer

Although she wasn’t a native Iowan, she became an Iowan while putting Luther College on the map in both track and field and cross country. Johanna Olson lost a courageous battle with cancer over the weekend. The following is a story courtesy of Luther College Athletics.  Here is an article from The Lutheran Norse

Johanna Olson©Lutheran Athletics

Johanna Olson
©Lutheran Athletics

Seven Time All-American and Two-Time National Champion Johanna Olson Passed Away Jan. 3, 2013

Jan. 4, 2013

We are saddened to inform friends and family of Luther College that Johanna Olson ’01 passed away yesterday from complications due to a brain tumor. Our thoughts and prayers are with Johanna’s family. As soon as we are informed of arrangements we will update the Luther College and Luther College Athletics Facebook sites.

For those of you who did not have the privilege of knowing Johanna, her story as a runner at Luther is legendary. Her accomplishments as an NCAA Division III cross country and track runner included three-time Iowa Conference MVP, three-time all-regional performer including two individual region titles, multiple school records, several time conference champion, seven-time All-American, three-time academic All-American and an NCAA Post Graduate Scholar.

One of only six runners in Luther cross country history to earn all-conference honors four times, Johanna’s legacy grew during the 2000-01 cross country and track campaigns. During the 2000 cross country season, she never lost a race and helped lead Luther to a third place finish at the 2000 NCAA III National Championships, while capturing her first individual title. Later that same academic year, she again achieved the ultimate in collegiate athletics by anchoring the Distance Medley Relay to an Indoor National Track and Field Title. That foursome of Siri Thompson, Jaimie Rasmussen, Jenerah Tekippe and Olson posted a time of 11:55.81 that remains the school record.

What makes this story even more compelling is the reoccurring battle with a brain tumor that Johanna overcame during her time at Luther College and what eventually ended her life.

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 2001, Johanna was presented the prestigious Honda Inspiration Award, the Lutheran Brotherhood Athlete of the Year, and the Mondo National Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year awards.

Johanna passed away Jan. 3, in hospice care in Bend, Ore., with her family by her side.


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