Overholt realizes dream, signs to run at Lenoir-Rhyne

Olivia Overholt began thinking about Monday while still in elementary school.

It was in that time of playgrounds and lunchboxes and ABCs that Overholt first thought about becoming a college athlete, about finding a sport in which she excelled and playing it at the university level.

Monday, that long-held dream became real as Overholt signed a national letter-of-intent to run track and cross country at Lenoir-Rhyne University, putting her name to paper surrounded by friends and family in Polk County High School’s auditorium.

Mission accomplished.

“It definitely means a lot,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about it since I was in elementary school, since I was little. It’s definitely a very special day.”

One of the more special athletic careers in Polk County history brought about the day.

As a cross country runner, Overholt qualified for state meet competition three times in her career. She placed 20th in the state 2A meet in November.

As a member of Polk County’s indoor track program, Overholt placed fifth in the 500-meter run at February’s state 2A/1A indoor championships, matching her finish in the 2020 indoor meet. At last spring’s state 1A outdoor meet, she placed second in both the 800 and 1600-meter runs.

Overholt was part of Polk County’s state championship 4×400-meter relay team in 2019 and has won multiple conference championships in her Polk County career.

As a basketball player, Overholt is one of just five Polk County female players to surpass the career 1,000-point mark, finishing with 1,033 points in three seasons.

Yet despite that court success, Overholt set her sights on a college career on the track.

“After running at state with my sister (Mariah, part of that 2019 relay state championship group), I really found that I loved track more than basketball,” Overholt said. “I still love basketball, but track has just been always been my top sport.

“I like how you can run with other people, and you can all work together. But then you also have that individual side of it where it all depends on you.”

Polk County head cross country and track and field coach Alan Peoples labeled Overholt and teammate Tori Thompson, who signed to run at Belmont Abbey during Monday’s ceremony, as “the picture of hard work.” Overholt hopes that work ethic will serve her well at the Division II school that she fell in love with early in her recruiting process.

“It’s always been one of the top schools on my list,” she said. “I’ve had people from the community come and talk to me about it, tell me a lot of things that made me want to go there.

“And then after my visit, I just loved the community. It’s smaller, and it has more of the family feel.”

Overholt expects to primarily run the 800 meters during track and field season in addition to cross country. She is thinking about pursuing a degree in accounting or business management.

She can’t wait to get started on all of that.

“It definitely scares me a little bit, but it makes me very excited for the future and what’s yet to come,” Overholt said.

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