The American Rivers Conference held its annual Men's and Women's Scholar Athlete of the Year Banquet at the Alumni House on the campus of Coe College on Monday, June 10.
Former Luther College softball player Anna Strien (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Waterloo Columbus), was presented the Johanna Olson Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year award for the 2017-18 academic year.
“As a Luther graduate, I cannot express how grateful I am to receive this award named after a fellow Luther student-athlete, who stood for so much more than just her athletic and academic ability,” stated Strien. “Johanna Olson fully embodied the role of a scholar-athlete. She was one of the most driven, accomplished and dedicated student-athletes Luther College has ever seen. But most importantly, through her relentless bravery and courage she inspired so many and has made an everlasting impact that has been felt, and will continue to be felt, at Luther College and beyond.”
“In all honesty, it is hard for me to describe how thankful I am to receive this award, or to even be nominated for it,” continued Strien. “To read of all the accomplishments, good works and impact the other student-athlete nominees have made in their communities, and in their sport, is inspiring in itself and makes me honored to even be listed among them. Right now all I can think of is how blessed I am to have had my coaches, teammates, professors, mentors and family by my side every step of the way. Without them I would not have been able to achieve this honor and become the person that I am today.”
Strien graduated Magna Cum Laude in May 2018 after posting a 3.753 grade point average while majoring in political science with a history minor. She was named to the Dean’s List in seven of eight semesters and was inducted into Phi Sigma Alpha and Phi Alpha Theta.
Strien was also named CoSIDA Academic All-American two times and was selected Academic All-Conference three times. The National Fastpitch Coaches Association also honored Strien as a Scholar-Athlete four times. Strien was involved in several research projects, including: “Analysis of Gideon v. Wainwright; Justice for those Who Defend Us;” “The Supreme Court’s Influence on Major League Baseball;” “Critical Analysis of Title IX;” and “The Evolution of Presidential Polling in the United States.”
“Anna was a focused and purposeful scholar,” added Rob Larson, Luther College associate professor of management. “She was a student first, but also balanced her time working the maximum allowable work-study hours on campus, working off campus, and being involved with other commitments during her four years at Luther.”
During her time at Luther, Strien was involved in service activities with Decorah Parks and Recreation, Luther PALS (big brother/sister program for kids in Decorah) and Luther Athlete’s Serving Others. Her work with Decorah Parks and Recreation afforded her opportunities to work with local children in after school programs and mentor local youth through administering varying athletic programs.
Strien wrapped up her softball career helping lead Luther to a third place finish at the NCAA III National Softball Championships, its highest finish in school history. During her career, the Norse posted an overall record of 162-27, won three consecutive conference titles (2015-17), qualified for the NCAA III National Tournament four times and advanced to the Super Regionals twice (2016, 2018).
She was a four-time all-conference honoree, a three-time all-Midwest region team member and a two-time first team NFCA All-American. She also represented Luther as a 2018 NCAA Division Ill National Softball Championship all-tournament team selection. Strien holds Luther College career records for RBI (175), doubles (57), hit-by-pitch (43), defensive assists (291) and in 2017, she recorded the best single season batting average at .531.
Dec. 11, 2013 the conference announced that it had renamed its annual Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award in honor and memory of Luther student-athlete Johanna Olson.
Olson, the inaugural recipient of the award, was a former cross country and track & field student-athlete at Luther College, who battled brain cancer for over 15 years before her fight ended on January 3, 2013 at age 33. She was originally diagnosed with a brain tumor as a college freshman in 1997 but went on to win the 2000 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship three years to the day after her initial brain surgery. In addition to the national title in cross country, she won three conference individual championships and three conference Most Valuable Runner awards (1999, 2000, 2001). In track and field, she was the 2001 conference Most Valuable Performer, earning All-America honors in the 3,000 and 5,000 meter runs. Olson was also a member of the 2001 distance medley relay team that captured the indoor national title. She was named the United States Track Coaches Association 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 Awards Inspirational Athlete of the Year after returning from radiation treatments to compete at the national level.
"Although Anna has received the highest honors a college softball student-athlete can achieve over a career, she would tell you that taking her team to Oklahoma City, and the National Softball Championships, as a senior was the top moment,” stated Renae Hartl, Luther softball coach and director of athletics. “I know that Johanna would be proud of another Luther College female student athlete earning this award in her honor. ”
With this honor, Strien became the seventh Luther student-athlete to be named a Scholar Athlete of the Year, four women and three men, since the inception of this conference award in 2000-01. Previous Scholar-Athletes include Johanna Olson (2000-01), cross country and track, Garrett South (2004-05), wrestling, Adam Bohach (2006-07), cross country and track, Alec Bonander (2008-09) wrestling, Kelsey (Kittleson) Millonig (2011-12) softball, and Shari Huber (2012-13) softball.
Strien is the daughter of Todd Strien of Okemos, Michigan and the late Heidi Strien.