Olivia Rovin: The Inspiration You Need This Finals Week

Olivia Rovin has never let any obstacle stop her.

“When she was 10, she competed in her first triathlon and cut her foot on a barnacle coming out of the water — but put shoes on and hopped on a bike. We [her parents] did not know she had hurt herself until she crossed the finish line in first place and blood was running out of her shoe!” said Rovin’s mother, Dr. Peggy Crawford.  

Rovin proves to be one of those special people who can conquer anything. Not even being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in January 2015 or weekly chemotherapy treatments could keep the then-sophomore and 16-year-old Rovin from running spring 2015 track. She had always been a top athlete in cross country, soccer and track and refused to let cancer change this. She consistently attended practice and ran despite chemo’s weakening effect on her body. She also won multiple races during the season.

On April 9, 2015, she had won the biggest battle: her battle against cancer. Just one week later, on April 16, 2015, she had another impressive feat, winning the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) District 10 Championship in the 800-meter race. Fast forward nearly seven months and you can find Rovin standing proudly on the podium at the FHSAA Cross Country State Finals with a ninth-place medal around her neck.

The road to ninth place at states was no walk in the park, but Rovin, the three-sport (cross country, soccer and track) varsity athlete since eighth grade has never backed down from a challenge. Joe Burgasser, her running club coach, started training Rovin for her fall cross-country season at the beginning of May. Rovin was determined to have a successful season.  

“I wanted to show everyone that cancer did not stop me or change my running performance,” Rovin said.

On her summer training, Coach Burgasser said, “We trained with a gradual increase in quantity and quality through the summer, allowing her to gradually regain lost strength, and overcome the neuropathy caused by chemotherapy.”

Rovin loved summer training because she enjoyed regaining of her strength. She eventually started to feel normal when running.

After excelling in summer workouts in the blistering Florida heat, Rovin was ready for fall and cross-country season. Going into the season, Rovin said, “I was really pumped because I wanted to show that [cancer] didn’t really affect me in a debilitating way. I just wanted to go out there and see what I could do for the season.”

After the first few meets, Rovin was discouraged with her times. With encouragement and guidance from her coaches, teammates and parents, Rovin decided to worry less about her times and more about the big picture: states. Rovin’s goal since middle school was to win a medal at states (the top 10 finishers get a medal), but had not yet achieved such a feat — she placed eleventh in the previous FHSAA Cross Country State Finals.

Rovin trained hard to get herself ready for states. Teammate Luke Peterson said “[Rovin] has a fantastic work ethic. She never made excuses for herself even when they were completely valid and always put her best foot forward.”

Another teammate, Lily Schneider, said, “Even on days when there is a thunderstorm and practice is canceled, Olivia goes to the gym and works out to get cardio in. She’s the kind of person we need more of in this world — people who are dedicated and determined.”

Rovin not only trained hard, but also trained smart — smarter than she ever had before. High school coach Amy Pope Raab said, “Olivia is one of the hardest working athletes I have ever coached. In fact, before cancer, there were many times that we had to tell her ‘no’ or ‘less’ because she wanted to push and work harder than she really needs to or ought to. After cancer, she still works just as hard, I think now she just works smarter than she used to. I think she understands that more is not always better.”

Finally, after months of preparation, hard work, learning experiences, fun, sweat and tired legs, Olivia’s final test came: FHSAA Cross Country State Finals, and she was ready. “This year I was really calm. In the past I pretended to be calm for my teammates and myself but deep down I really knew I could do it,” Rovin said.

During the race, Rovin used confidence and strength to gain an edge over her opponents. “I just kept telling myself that I was tougher than all the other girls out there. My mantra that I repeated in my head was ‘I beat cancer, I can beat you,’” Rovin said.

As Rovin sprinted down the final stretch, her teammates, friends, coaches and family exploded with excitement. Rovin finished in ninth place with a 19:33 for the 5K, her best placing at a state meet ever.

“I just wanted to prove to everyone and mostly myself that I could still be a competitive and intense athlete after everything I went through,” Rovin said.

Standing up on the podium smiling with her ninth place medal, Rovin has inspired everyone, from her coaches, to teammates, to competitors to work hard and never give up.