WATERLOO — Olivia Fain has thrived as a supporting actress or the star of the show.
The Waterloo Columbus senior has played the lead in her last two spring school musicals while simultaneously filling key leadership roles on a state championship tennis team and a state-qualifying soccer squad.
As her high school athletics career comes to a close at this week’s state soccer tournament in Des Moines, Fain will have little to second guess over the decisions she’s made these past four years. The state championship volleyball setter and regular basketball starter has pursued a variety of academic and extra-curricular opportunities.
Among the highlights Fain recalls from her high school years are a state singles tennis championship as a sophomore, playing Belle in The Beauty and the Beast for her junior musical and this past fall’s surprise volleyball title run.
“I like being busy,” said Fain, who starts her typical school day at 7 a.m. with tennis, soccer and musical practices running through 10 p.m. “You have to find time to do homework, find time to hang out with your friends, find time to go to church with your family. I think it really teaches you about time management and making priorities.”
One of the main reasons Fain said she wanted to enroll at Columbus High School was the opportunity to play both soccer and tennis in the same season. Her sister, Bella, is two years younger and involved in the same activities.
“I think it’s good to play more than one sport, because all my sports kind of tie together,” Fain said. “In tennis, you anticipate things. That ties into volleyball and basketball and soccer. Playing more than one sport at a time, it really enhances your knowledge.”
Fain, who has signed to continue her tennis career at the University of Northern Iowa, was first drawn to the sport by her mom, Kathryn, at age three. Her dad, Michael, encouraged her to go out for soccer a couple years later. That passion for athletics has been shared with younger sisters, Bella and Sophia, while her cousins and grandparents can often be found in the crowd at sporting events.
“My parents and coaches always pushed me to be someone better than what I think I can be,” Fain said. “Our coaches always say it’s mind over matter. If you think you can do it, you can do it. If you’re tired, you’re really not. You can go further. Being a leader and helping other kids, I want them to be just as successful as I am.
“Anything that involves a team is something that really sticks out to me because I think it’s important when you realize that you’re not the only one doing things.”
On the soccer pitch, Fain transitioned from a team-high 19-goal, six-assist junior season to leading this year’s team with 13 assists accompanying six goals. Her passing often finds a familiar target in classmate Ana Ortiz, whom she’s played alongside over the past 12 years.
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Columbus soccer coach Julie Girsch describes Fain’s leadership style as blunt, yet positive.
“She’s to the point, she says how it is, she’s honest,” Girsch related. “When she talks to the team before the game she wants it so bad for everyone and you can just hear it in her tone. She has this underlying passion and love and dedication to the sport. It’s pretty contagious.”
Prior to the postseason schedule changing this spring, Girsch pointed to the previous three years when Fain would follow two matches at the individual state tennis tournament with competition in a regional soccer game that night. She’s followed in the footsteps of a variety of talented athletes at her school who’ve completed the demanding dual-sport workload.
Further illustrating Fain’s competitive nature, Girsch recalls a loss to Union near the beginning of the season when her team was down multiple goals but she was still battling hard until the last minute. It set the tone for a team that progressed into state qualifiers with a 3-0 win over Dubuque Wahlert on Monday.
That state-qualifying victory came just days removed from Fain winning a state doubles and team title in tennis.
“It’s just a true testament to her character,” Girsch said. “Anything she’s involved in really, she’s giving you all that she has when she’s available.”
While the departments of athletics and drama don’t always intersect at every school, Fain isn’t one to back away from trying something different.
“Singing is something I’ve always had a passion for, but since I’m in athletics I don’t think a lot of people recognize it,” Fain said. “They did a really nice job of accepting me and some of the other soccer or volleyball players that have joined the musical over the years. I’m really grateful for that and the director (Kyle Weber) is amazing. I wouldn’t have gone for the musical all these years if it wasn’t for him.”
After receiving one final taste of high school competition at this week’s state soccer tournament, Fain is looking forward to joining a UNI tennis program coached by Waterloo Black Hawk Tennis Club owner Chris Sagers. She plans to pursue a biology, pre-med academic workload.
“He put a lot of faith in me,” Fain said, addressing the opportunity to play Division I tennis. “I’ve been working with him for a long time and I’m really grateful to him for giving me this opportunity. I just want to make him proud and show that I can play at this level and help his team.”