The NCAA Woman of the Year Award honors academic achievements, athletic excellence and community service and leadership for a graduating senior.

The University of North Dakota’s nominee this year is Madison Overby.

The Austin High School graduate was likely an easy choice.

“I work hard, and I don’t like to not do my best at things,” Overby said. “So I put 100 percent into whatever is in front of me. But school is something I enjoy, so I never felt like it was a ton of work.”

Overby’s credentials overwhelmingly suggest that hard work. They also leave one wondering if she might just win that national award, which will be announced Nov. 1.

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When it came to her studies, Overby was perfect and did that while taking on one of the most difficult majors there is, biology. She got nothing but A’s, completing her four years at UND with a 4.0 grade point average.

A major cog on the Fighting Hawks’ track and cross country teams, Overby was a favorite to win the 5,000 meters at this spring’s Summit League outdoor track and field meet. But thanks to COVID-19 erasing all sports beginning in March, Overby never got the chance to fulfill that goal. That was tough to take.

“I was really looking forward to putting a final stamp on my career,” Overby said. “That it didn’t happen was heartbreaking, to say the least.”

Still, she left UND with lofty running memories. Overby was fourth in the 1,500 last year in the Summit League outdoor meet and second in the distance-medley relay while running the anchor leg in this year’s Summit League indoor meet.

Then there was all of her community service the last four years. The daughter of an orthodontist (Eric Overby) and a college professor who began her career in family counseling (Suzette Overby), their influence shone through in their daughter’s reaching out.

“My mom always told me that there are so many things that people are going through, and that if you can do little things to help (them), it could mean the world to them,” Madison said. “So I always try to set aside more than a few seconds for people.”


As a college student, she set aside way more than that. Her calling has been public health. Overby volunteered at public-health facilities in UND’s home city of Grand Forks, as well as St. Paul, specializing in dental work.

Overby’s satisfaction from those opportunities was immense, with so many financially struggling people coming in for help and Overby able to provide it for them. It was enough to leave her thinking that public health might be a lifelong calling.

“It was a privilege to see that large groups of people are working to serve the underserved,” Overby said. “I fell in love with it. It is exciting with the appreciation you feel from most patients. It just really feels like you’re serving a purpose.”

Overby has a next step, and it’s a big one. She’s been accepted into Harvard’s prestigious dental school, ranked second in the country. She’ll take off for the Boston campus in August, primed to be in one of her favorite cities, with all of its history, diversity and educational opportunities.

Overby notes that Harvard doesn’t just go looking for bright students, but well-rounded ones. They found one in Overby, who intends to join a running club when she gets there, study like crazy, and certainly keep serving others.

Once her four years there are done, another adventure is waiting. Overby will be joining the Navy, which is paying for her Harvard schooling, the agreement being that she’ll then put in at least four years of military service.

Overby is primed for all of it. One thing that doesn’t have her holding her breath, though, is that NCAA Woman of the Year award. At least not as it pertains to her ego. But if she can use it to help others, she’s all in.

“I don’t give too much thought to awards,” Overby said. “But one thing I do give thought to is that winning it would give me a platform to share ideas, a jumping off point to do more things in the future. But I doubt I’d win it. There are just so many other fantastic people out there.”