Pine Island track and field athlete Jesse Olson is his team's Renaissance man
Pine Island senior high jumper and middle-distance runner Jesse Olson is a man for many seasons and endeavors.
PINE ISLAND — Jesse Olson is not the most athletically talented member of the Pine Island boys track and field team, though he’s up there.
But if pressed to name the most interesting, diverse, driven, intelligent, sensitive and up-for-a-challenge team member, Olson is the one.
The senior is the ultimate Renaissance man. And he’s a heck of a leader, too.
“We’re going to miss Jesse when he graduates,” said Pine Island coach Matt Northrop, whose Panthers are headed to the Class AA state True Team track-and-field meet Saturday at Stillwater High School. Olson will compete in the high jump.
“He is an amazing kid,” Northrop said. “Jesse always does everything right.”
It was realized at an early age by Olson’s parents, Jerry and Jodi Olson, that Jesse was different, and in a good way.
By the sixth grade, Jerry was sure of it. It was Jesse’s work in the classroom that stood out most then, a precursor to what happened five years later, Jesse totaling a near-perfect ACT score.
“He’d always done well in school, but starting in about sixth grade it became apparent that he was considerably ahead of most everyone in his class,” Jerry said. “And by the time he was in eighth grade, he was taking advanced courses and tutoring other kids.”
A bunch of other stuff came years later, such as Jesse learning how to play six different instruments and joining the Pine Island jazz band, pit orchestra and chorus. He became a member of National Honor Society, a star on the Pine Island speech and debate team, a photographer of exotic supercars (where he has his own business), and in various years a member of the Pine Island soccer, basketball and wrestling teams, a Rochester Nordic ski team member, and has served as captain of both the Pine Island track-and-field and cross country teams.
Complete with a 4.0 GPA, Olson is an achiever and a worker, no matter his venture. But academics are the best example of his seriousness and drive. Next year he’ll take those talents and ambitions to St. Olaf College, where he’ll also compete in track and field.
“I’ve always been naturally gifted in academics, but I firmly believe that if I stop putting in the work, I’m going to meet my match,” said Olson, who is eyeing a career in sports medicine. “I always prioritize academics above all else in my life. I enjoy learning and certainly enjoy the classes that I take. I find them both challenging and beneficial.”
Olson hasn’t just centered himself on achieving. His accomplishments are coupled with a constant effort by him to do the “right thing." That is with his teammates, coaches and classmates always in mind. It’s what’s led him to being named a captain in sports.
“He’s got a sense of morals,” Jerry said. “And when he feels like something is the right thing to do, he just does it. It’s never like he debates that stuff in his head.”
Of all the sports that the 6-foot-4, 165-pound Olson has taken on at Pine Island, track and field and cross country have been his favorites.
In track and field, he has taken to the way that hugely successful coach Northrop runs his program. It comes with Northrop giving his athletes a feeling of ownership, as well as purpose and belonging, no matter their athletic abilities.
“He gives us the chance each year to not only live up to the previous year, but to define our own meaning,” Olson said. “He helps people develop and find their own place on the team and develop a passion for the sport. He’s definitely great for team chemistry.”
Olson has fit right into what Northrop is looking for. No, he won’t go down as one of the school’s all-time performers in track and field. But he will go down as one of its all-time leaders and workers.
“I didn’t know what my place would be when I first joined the track team,” Olson said. “So now, I want to encourage kids to experience new things (in track and field). I want to show them what a good program can be. Everything has to be done with a balance of hard work and the fun that comes with it.”