Former North athlete receives prestigious IU award

Roseann Wilson was shocked to hear an Indiana University representative on the other end of the phone congratulating for an award she didn’t even know she had won.

The 1979 Columbus North graduate and former Bull Dogs distance runner was given the Leanne Grotke Award for her contributions to IU’s women’s athletics program.

The Leanne Grotke Award is the highest honor of its kind, and Wilson was one of three recipients for this year. Donna Palivec and Cynthia Potter were the other two women who were honored Sept. 15 in Memorial Stadium’s Henke Hall of Champions.

“Once I looked up what the award was, I was very humbled to win something like that,” Wilson said. “It meant the world to me just being at IU in three different capacities, first as an athlete, (graduate) assistant and coaching.”

Wilson walked on the team in 1980 as a freshman during Indiana’s second year as a track and field program and earned a scholarship by the end of the season. She set a school record in the 1,500 meters by her junior year and qualified for nationals once in both track and cross-country during her collegiate career that lasted until 1984.

Wilson’s contributions to IU’s track program were far from over once she left the campus after getting her master’s degree in 1986. She went on to coach at the University of Connecticut from 1986 to ’89 and was named the 1989 New England Indoor and Outdoor Track Coach of the Year.

Wilson made her return to IU for the 1989 season as the cross-country and track coach and stayed there for nine years. She said she actually enjoyed her time coaching for the Hoosiers even more than her four years as an athlete.

Wilson was named Big Ten Coach of the Year twice during her tenure. Twenty-eight Big Ten champions and 24 All-Americans came out of IU under Wilson.

“The opportunity to work with kids from all over the country and all over the world and watching them progress, it was such a great experience,” Wilson said. “You felt like you were helping kids reach dreams maybe they haven’t even envisioned for themselves. A lot of that has to do with the work ethic of the kids you’re working with. When you see them reach that level, especially the ones who made big improvements, that makes you feel good about your influence on them.”

The 56-year-old used her acceptance speech to thank those who’ve made influences on her life, including her parents. The ceremony started with a reception to give time for the three families to take photos and eat dinner before introducing the award winners to give their remarks.

“It was a fantastic evening. IU always does things first class,” Wilson said. “… It was great to have my family there and to thank my parents, who still live in Columbus, for all the support they’ve given me. They’ve taught me hard work and dependability. Sometimes, you don’t always get that chance to thank your parents and let them know how much they mean to us.”

Wilson said she will try to carry on some of those things to the children she teaches during her kindergarten-through-eighth-grade physical education and junior high health classes. She also coaches track and field at Evansville Mater Dei High School.

Leanne Grotke Award Recipient

Name: Roseann Wilson

Age: 56

High School: Columbus North

College: Indiana University

Sports: Cross-country, track and field

Athletic Achievements: Former IU record holder in the 1,500 meters; cross-country and track national qualifier.

Coaching Achievements: Coached 28 Big Ten Champions and 24 All-Americans at IU; former University of Connecticut head coach

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5632.