By Jamie Volin
Olson, Sioux Falls native and one of the top players in South
Dakota in the 1960’s and 70’s, is a 2013 inductee into the SD
Tennis Hall of Fame. With over 100 trophies in her tennis
memories, highlights in adult tennis include a 1968 SD Closed
singles title and four Closed doubles championships.
most success in doubles came with Pam Gefke and Lu Holwerda, two
other SD Tennis Hall of Famers. Anne teamed with Gefke to win
the Closed in 1966 and 1967 and with Lu, won the Closed in 1972
and 1975. Then Anne added doubles titles in the SD Open with
Holwerda three straight years, starting in 1974.
McKennan Park sired many tennis
champions, and Craney lived a block from the tennis courts.
In the early 60’s, there was no state high school girls’ tennis
competition and only limited collegiate women’s tennis. But
that didn’t stop a young St. Mary grade school girl from
competing in the summer city tennis program, taught by legendary
tennis greats, Don Grebin and John Simko.
an instructor in the park program herself, Anne recalls showing
youngster Randy Kochenderfer (an eventual top junior player in
the state and star at Augustana College) how to hold a
Gefke (who lived a few doors down on 5th Avenue,
Anne started competing at age twelve in local and regional
tennis tournaments. Anne enjoyed a great deal of success and
was ranked #2 in the girls’ age divisions for five years in the
Northwestern Tennis Association. The NWTA comprised the states
of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of
Wisconsin. A high year end ranking meant that Anne was one of
the top players in the tri-state area.
represented South Dakota at national tennis tournaments held at
Rice University in Houston, Texas in 1965 and at the
University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida
in 1966. South Dakota could only send two players to compete
in the girls’ eighteen and under division. The other player was
the very athletic Marci Wernli. Together they played doubles at
the nationals, as well as singles.
Dakota didn’t sanction girls’ high school tennis as a sport
until 1969 so Anne and Marci didn’t have a chance to compete at
the South Dakota State High School Tournament. Suffice it to
say, that Anne, who graduated from Sioux Falls O’Gorman in 1966,
and Marci, a Washington High School grad, would have lead their
respective schools to some terrific matches.
on to the University of
South Dakota and worked out with
the men’s’ tennis team that was being coached by Hall of Famer
Fred Fischer. Not having a women’s’ tennis team, Anne and
Stuart Clayton (another excellent Sioux Falls girls tennis
player) became cheerleaders for the USD Coyotes football and
school and college, Anne continued to play competitive tennis in
the women’s’ ranks. Partnering with Gefke, Holwerda, Chi Chi
Walstad and her younger sister, Jeannie Craney, Anne won her
share of tournaments. While living in Aberdeen, she won a
singles title in the CC Lee tournament. In addition, Anne and
her mixed doubles partner, tennis pro Ron York, found success
playing mixed double events in the Minneapolis area.
Unfortunately, in the spring of 1985, her adult playing career
was cut short by an “unexplained myelopathy”, a paralysis from
her neck down. For three years, Anne couldn’t feel or move a
thing. Her husband, Wayne and family nursed Anne back to health
to the point where she was able to start exercising again.
Always a fitness person, she started running to get back into
shape and entered the Bloomington Open in 1992 as a good way to
meet a player to hit with. Ann played the best match of her
life, winning the final 10-8, 22-24, 18-16 and found a hitting
partner in the process, Karen Swanson.
that in the real world, she has worked as a professional
model/actress in the Twin Cities as well as an executive
secretary, medical transcriptionist and legal secretary. Anne
is most proud of her family; husband Wayne, children Ron (Amy) ,
Renee (Jeff) and Rob (Amy) and her nine grandchildren.
a son and son-in-law with military backgrounds, Anne developed a
passion for supporting Americans who have served in the military
since the Vietnam war and the tragedies of 9/11. She’s helped
man the Armed Forces Center (USO) at the Minneapolis Airport.
They help with staging areas for all troop deployments and
returns…seeing the soldiers eyes for the last time as they head
to war or when they return. “It is a true blessing to honor
these heroes,” said Anne.
courageous lady not only battled back from paralysis to play
competitive tennis again, but with the support of faith and
family is battling cancer like a true champion today.