Mollie Olson Begins Next Chapter as Viking
Ballin’: Napavine Alum Starts Collegiate Career at Western Washington University
By Matt Baide
At Napavine, Mollie Olson was a star athlete on the volleyball court, basketball court and the track.
After graduating in June, Olson is now the little fish in a big pond, starting her collegiate basketball career at Western Washington University in Bellingham.
During her time at Napavine, she helped lead the volleyball team to their highest finish in school history in 2016 by placing fourth, as well as a fifth and seventh place finish.
In track, she was a state champion in May in the 100 meter hurdles and was a state champion in 2017.
In basketball, Olson led Napavine to the state tournament all four years, finishing second in 2016 and fifth in 2018. Playing three sports helped Olson shape her athleticism heading into her college basketball career.
“I think it’s just really helped with my athleticism, which definitely is probably the best thing I have going for me,” Olson said. “I’m not the best basketball player but like I work hard and I manage stuff pretty well.”
After four years of spreading her time between sports, Olson is now happy to focus on just one sport.
In an interview in early May, Olson had trouble deciding which sport she wanted to pursue in college.
“I went back and forth like probably 10 times between volleyball and basketball and sometimes, I was like, oh yeah, track would be really fun,” Olson said.
But last week, when asked if she would miss volleyball and track, it was a simple answer: No.
“It’s been really fun. It’s fun to be around people that have the same mindset that you have for that long of a time period,” Olson said. “I’m very excited for it, this is the first time I’ve got to actually just be one thing. I’m excited to see how I grow as a player.”
Olson began her time at Western this month, helping out at a youth basketball camp while also getting acclimated with the team and Bellingham.
“We all get along super well,
but they just laugh at how small Napavine is,” Olson said. “They think it’s funny.”
She has been sharing a room with fellow freshmen Avery Dykstra from Lynden Christian.
“My two freshman that are with me are awesome. We’re staying at a going-to-be-sophomore’s house and its been really fun,” Olson said. “She’s (Avery) on a cot and somehow, I got the air mattress.”
Olson has been the brunt of some jokes by her teammates, especially when she suggests finding a place to eat.
“There’s new places up here but everybody kind of makes fun of me because I’m the only one who likes to eat a lot,” Olson said. “Which I’m kind of self conscious about it because everything I say is let’s go get a crepe or let’s go get a milkshake and they’re like, stop eating.”
Being away from home hasn’t been easy for Olson, but it helps that she has enjoyed being in Bellingham.
“I love it. Yesterday, I just drove around because everybody else is pretty much from around this area or a returner, so they’ve all been here,” Olson said. “I’m having a super good time, went shopping yesterday. I got a 101 fluid ounce water bottle from Ross, which I also got made fun of for.”
While she is enjoying WWU right now, the process to get there wasn’t easy for Olson. She had offers but ultimately had to make a decision that was best for her.
“I had three but I didn’t get them until like April. Before that I was really stressed and after that I was stressed too because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but once I went to all the schools and checked them all out, I took a couple days, did a pros and cons list,” she said. “It was really tough, I felt really bad but it is for me.”
Her Napavine basketball career was filled with great memories and friends.
“It was good, it was a good time. Just like on the way to practices and games and road trips with everybody, it’s just so much fun,” Olson said. “It was lots of good stuff, we got to eat at so many new food places.”
The hardest part for Olson is not being able to play with her good friend Melissa Lee. Lee signed to play basketball at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls starting in the fall.
“I was so happy for her. I almost started crying which is dumb because I didn’t even cry for my own,” Olson said. “It was really exciting, but it’s really sad because we’re now 10 hours apart from each other.”
During her final year as a Tiger, Olson believes her shot improved the most from her junior year, which will help her while playing point guard. She noted that she will be splitting time at point guard with junior Lexie Bland and hopes to fit into the rotation right away.
“I’m going to be playing the point guard. They have a really good junior who’s super good,” Olson said. “Last year, there were only two or three girls that had actually, like, played in games at Western. I’m not going to be playing the whole time but I’ll get in.”
The Vikings finished last season 12-16 overall and and 8-12 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Western finished seventh in the league, just outside of a spot into the GNAC championship tournament.
There is one game in particular that Olson has circled on the schedule. On Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, Western visits Lacey to play Saint Martin’s University, and Olson is excited to play a game in front of some familiar faces.
“I definitely miss my family already so it’s going to be nice to see them all together,” Olson said.
Olson is planning on majoring in animal sciences while at Western, although she’s unsure what career path she will take with the degree.
“I just really like animals. I originally wanted to open up a dog shelter, but my mom shut that down fast,” Olson said. “I don’t really know. One of the girls on my team is a dog walker in the summer so that’s pretty cool, maybe I could be a dog walker. You only make $20 a day but that’s OK.”
Olson will be back in Napavine once the camp concludes and will continue playing basketball and working out while working in Glenoma this summer. The basketball team has to be back in Bellingham on Sept. 4 when practices start, with classes beginning on Sept. 26.
She hopes to learn the ropes of being a collegiate student-athlete during her first year at Western.
“I think just going somewhere where nobody knows who I am, kind of setting myself up for something,” Olson said. “I just want to make sure my grades stay up and make sure I’m not getting into trouble and getting along with the girls. Obviously playing good and learning how everything works.”