Maybe every freshman begins high school with such an audacious goal. Maybe Olivia Overholt’s dream as she entered Polk County High School wasn’t uniquely hers.
“I wanted to leave something behind at Polk County,” Overholt says. “That people would know who I am.”
We urge young athletes to reach for the stars, after all, to envision victories and records and state championships. So why not desire to leave a legacy, why not set the highest of bars to hurdle?
Friday evening, Overholt will hear her name read and will cross the graduation stage in G.M. Tennant Stadium. She will be the third of Pat and Valerie Overholt’s five children with a Polk County High School diploma, two athletic standout siblings going before her, two more likely to follow.
But her Wolverine journey is unlike the others, unlike any others, really, and the pronouncement of her name Friday will not be the last time it is uttered in a local sports venue. For during the past four years, Overholt accomplished exactly what she desired, building an athletic resume as good as any ever fashioned in royal blue and white.
Know her name? May be forever before anyone forgets it.
Ask veteran Polk County athletic observers to rank Overholt among the school’s all-time athletes, and the response is almost always the same.
“Top three,” one said. “Easy.”
There are ample accomplishments to support that praise. Consider:
- On the basketball court, Overholt is one of five Polk County female players to reach 1,000 career points, joining Hayley Kropp, Autumn Owen, Kim Staley and Brianna Cunningham. Overholt accomplished the milestone in three seasons, sitting out her junior year.
- Overholt finished her career averaging 15.2 points per game and scored in double figures in 36 straight games spanning her sophomore and senior seasons. That may well be a school record – not even Kropp, Polk’s career leading scorer, had a streak of that length.
- As a cross country runner, Overholt qualified for state meet competition three times in her career. She had three top-10 regional finishes and won the 2019 Western Highlands Conference championship.
- Overholt is one of six Polk County female cross country runners to break the 20-minute mark, running a personal best of 19:53.1.
- As an indoor track competitor, Overholt twice finished in the top five in state meet competition, both of those coming in the 500-meter run.
- As an outdoor track athlete, Overholt earned three state titles, one of just seven Polk County female athletes to do so, joining Karen Godlock, Jennifer Dimsdale, Jenny McGrane, Rachel McEntyre, Ebony Cunningham and Elisabeth Elliott.
- Overholt is also one of just seven females to win an individual event (Godlock, Dimsdale, McEntyre, Cunningham, Elliott, Maggie Conner) and only the third to win the 800-meter run, joining Godlock and Dimsdale in that club.
It is the type of career that leaves little to regret.
“I feel very satisfied,” Overholt said. “I accomplished pretty much everything I wanted to.
“I won three state championships. (The 800-meter title) was a good way to end my year. I’m still kind of sad about sophomore year that got ended shortly, but other than that, I feel very accomplished.”
Perhaps Overholt’s athletic prowess at Polk County should have been expected; as a middle school athlete, she won two conference cross country titles, multiple track championships and helped lead Polk Middle to a division basketball title and conference runner-up finish in her eighth grade year.
Expectations for Overholt soared as soon as she arrived on the PCHS campus, where older brother Dillon and older sister Mariah had already achieved athletic success. Taking the lead in family feats motivated Overholt nearly as much as her lofty ambitions.
“Definitely, it put a lot of pressure on me, but then it did drive me because I wanted to be better and beat them in certain things,” she said.
Overholt says that with a laugh, and anyone who has spent five minutes around her knows why. The Overholts are a tight-knit family, and it’s uncommon to see one sibling competing in an event without at least one other there to watch and cheer. Her older siblings may have driven her to succeed, but they also helped drive her to practices and games, and she wastes no time citing their part in her achievements.
“They played a huge role,” she said of her siblings as well as her parents. “They’re the ones who took me to practices and other stuff all freshman, sophomore and some of junior year. They definitely played a huge role.
“All my coaches and my parents were a big motivation. Coach D (assistant track coach Dewayne Elliott), he’s been with me since middle school. He was definitely there along the whole way to help me out. And the Alms (Polk basketball coaches Brandy and Billy).”
Nowhere did the strength of Overholt’s family ties show more than during the outdoor state track championships of her freshman and senior years. She won her first state medal as a ninth grader, anchoring a winning 4×400-meter relay team that included Mariah. The two shared a long embrace at race’s end before heading for the victor’s podium.
This May, Olivia was the senior, and she helped Polk claim the 4×800-meter relay title before returning for the 800 meters. She knew it would be her final chance to achieve another goal, an individual state crown, and she led nearly the entire race, crossing the finish line and raising her arms in celebration.
Overholt rarely showed emotion in any arena, and the win wasn’t the only reason she did so this time.
“It was the first individual (state medal), number one, and that was probably one of my biggest wants, or goals, in high school,” Overholt said. “Also, my mom and sister were right on the side. So they’re the first people I saw, and that made it very emotional.”
Maybe a pandemic can produce some small, good changes.
Overholt admits that until the coronavirus pandemic struck in early 2020 and changed the world, she envisioned herself first a basketball player. But with no team sports and plenty of opportunities to run, her passion began to change.
“As a freshman basketball was always my first choice, and I always wanted to play college basketball,” she said. “But then, as I started sophomore year and after COVID and everything, track really just became one of my favorites.
“I felt the most comfortable in track. I think that’s because it is like an individual (sport) and a team. I just always felt more comfortable there.”
That comfort, and the accomplishments, led to college track coaches joining their basketball counterparts in calling with scholarship offers. Overholt listened to all, but quickly fell in love with Lenior-Rhyne University, and she signed in April with the Bears’ cross country and track programs.
New goals and new challenges await.
“It wasn’t really a tough choice,” she said of her decision. “I love basketball, but through all of it, I just found I loved track a lot more.
“Going into college, there’s going to be a lot of more competition, even on my team. So I just want to keep up with everybody else and just do the best I can.”
And maybe just make certain others remember her name along the way.