Perry’s former all-state hurler Emma Olejniczak spent her first two collegiate softball seasons toeing the rubber for the University of Northern Iowa.
Younger brother Kaleb will be coming to Cedar Falls this season as a freshman on the Panther wrestling team, but big sis Emma will not be on campus, as she will spend her final two college seasons in the circle for the University of Iowa.
“I didn’t feel like I was improving (at UNI) and wanted the opportunity to continue to grow as a player,” Olejniczak said.
She will be an important addition to a Hawkeye lineup that will be entering their second season under head coach Renee Gillispie. Former North Polk and ADM head coach Rick Dillinger is her assistant coach, and working with the Hall of Fame coach was part of the consideration in choosing Iowa.
Dillinger helped coach Molly Jacobson to 1,286 career strikeouts at ADM. Jacobson and Olejniczak became friends while battling for strikeout bragging rights in Class 4A in 2015 and 2016. Jacobson, who is a year older, is now pitching for Ole Miss.
Iowa was 19-32 last season and 5-18 in Big Ten play, with UNI 28-23 overall and 16-10 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Staying close to home was one factor in Olejniczak’s decision to chose Iowa, as was playing in one of the Power Five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12 and SEC).
She will continue to pursue a degree in psychology, with an emphasis on aging and longevity. Working in the field of geriatric psychology is her current career plan, and Iowa offers her the opportunity to continue advancing toward those goals.
Dad Jason was a standout defensive back for the Hawkeyes under Hayden Fry, and Emma admitted to being “born and raised a Hawk.”
She was a combined 11-17 with two saves for the Panthers, with opposing batters hitting .230 in 2018 and .301 in 2019. Olejniczak had 110 strikeouts, 86 walks and six hit batters at UNI, and in her defense faced a tougher slate of opponents as a sophomore than she had as a freshman.
Olejniczak left Perry with 1,234 career prep strikeouts, including 356 during her senior season.