Big Ten Features Larra Overton
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Junior Larra Overton was recently featured on the Big Ten Conference's website for her accomplishments in athletics as well as in the classroom and beyond. Below is the feature written by Matt Tamanini.
Over the past few years, sports writers and commentators have become just as famous as the athletes they cover. With networks airing game shows to give people the opportunity to win their dream job as a sportscaster, the path to the anchor desk seems as effortless as turning on the TV, but one Big Ten athlete doesn't need to rely on Stuart Scott or a panel of judges to reach her dream.
For the past four years, Overton has been a member of the Indiana University track and cross-country teams, however, she has been a journalist even longer. At the 2005 Big Ten Women's Indoor Track Championships, Overton earned the bronze medal in the 800-meters, her highest finish at a championship meet to date, but as significant as her athletic accomplishments are, there is something intrinsically satisfying about the chance to reach out to a limitless world of people, to her.
The New Albany, Indiana native first began to become interested in journalism during her first year of high school, when a class opened her up to opportunities that continue to shape her life to this day. "There are so many things that attract me to journalism. I think one of the biggest things is the influence you can have in just 30 seconds. You can express such an impressive amount of information to a wide variety of people. You have the ability to reach a wide audience and communicate a message and have it affect people in some personal way," the distance runner said.
An All-State runner in high school, Overton was selected as a finalist for Wendy's High School Heisman Award. As a guest at the college Heisman ceremony, she sat back and watched how the ESPN crew televising the event interacted with the attending athletes. The evening's host, Chris Fowler, particularly impressed the then-high school senior. As Fowler talked to athletes around New York's Downtown Athletic Club, he did so with an air that inspired Overton. "I just watched the way he interacted with athletes. He was very consistent, very composed. He knew what he was talking about and he was very personable. When you are able to do that, you have a very unique ability to communicate your message."
Since beginning at Indiana, Overton has been able to participate in journalism internships in a number of locations, from in her backyard in Bloomington, to Louisville, Kentucky, and even ESPN Headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. However, Overton feels that the lessons she has learned through running, have benefited her career just as much as any internship. "Self-motivation has definitely been the key to my determination and my pursuits in journalism. In distance running, there is a lot of time where you are pushing yourself and you have to do the little extras outside of practice. That goes hand-in-hand with being a good journalist and spending the extra time with a piece to make sure you give the best story you can."
While Overton cites some of the leading female sports journalists, like Leslie Visser, Suzy Kolber, and Melissa Stark, as role models, one of the most profound influences on her life has been IU's cross-country coach, Judy Wilson. A former walk-on to the Hoosier team, Wilson went on to become a national-caliber distance runner, finishing fourth in the 5,000-meters at the 1988 Olympic Trials. Overton has found not only a coach in Wilson, but a mentor and friend as well. "I really feel like she has been able to use her personal experience to help develop me as a runner and as a competitor. She has been so motivating and so supportive of everything that I have wanted to accomplish. It is great to have someone that you respect and is such an amazing role model, who also happens to be your coach. If some aspect of my running isn't going well, she's there. She might not always tell me what I want to hear, but she will tell me what I need to hear to help me get over it and get on to my next goal."
Overton's dream job is to be a college football sideline reporter and throughout her college years, she has been accumulating experiences to prepare her for that goal. In addition to working at Indiana's student newspaper, she has had internships at Fox-41 in Louisville, Kentucky (just across the Ohio River from New Albany) and WTIU in Bloomington, but the most exciting opportunity she has had was a 12-week internship in the summer of 2004 at the headquarters of ESPN. "Talking to people every single day who, in my opinion, have the greatest job in the world, was the coolest experience I have had. To be able to talk about, analyze, and consume sports and to get paid for it is incredible. I think being in that environment was so overwhelming and so rewarding all at the same time, it made me realize just how lucky I was to be doing what I loved."
A member of the Academic All-Big Ten team, Overton has excelled in the classroom, on the track, and in the field. She also knows that being successful in one area of pursuit is not independent of every other aspect of her life. A double major in Journalism and Political Science, with a minor in Psychology, Overton is smart enough to understand that each success is predicated on the one before it. "I think that everything that I have been able to accomplish, that I have been lucky enough to experience at the collegiate level, has been related to each other. Being able to succeed academically has allowed me to really feel like I have gotten the most out of my collegiate experience and it has helped me realize what it takes to succeed in the professional arena."
More often than not, people consider athletes solely on their physical accomplishments, but generally, the benefits of athletics carry far beyond the field of competition. Be it the dedication to focus on academics or the self-motivation to go the extra distance on a story, her athletic experiences have pushed Larra Overton to become who she is today. "I find a new way every week that I have benefited from this team. There are countless experiences that I have had, both in journalism and my academic life, that I know I have benefited more from, because of my experience in track and cross country at IU."
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