BVU Hall of Fame Honor Bestowed on the Late ‘Sam’ (Meier) Larson

Beaver pitcher went 6-0 with an ERA of 0.00 in league play during national title season

One of the greatest pitchers in Buena Vista University softball history will be honored posthumously as Carol “Sam” (Meier) Larson earns her place in the BVU Athletics Hall of Fame during induction ceremonies set as part of the Homecoming celebration, Friday through Sunday.

Larson, who suffered from aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder, died in 1999 at age 35. A decade-and-a-half earlier, she starred in the pitcher’s circle for the Beavers, earning First Team All-Iowa Conference accolades as a junior and senior. She has the lowest career earned run average among all BVU pitchers, yielding a miniscule .90 runs per game. During conference play in BVU’s National Championship season of 1984, Larson went 6-0 and her ERA was 0.00. The team was undefeated in league play that spring.

“Nobody will ever beat Sam’s 1984 ERA record in the conference,” says Joy (Johnson) Gross ’86, a fellow member of the BVU Athletics Hall of Fame. “It simply can’t be done.”

Larson was a key member of BVU’s NCAA Division III National Championship team in 1984 and its National Runner-up squad in 1983, as both squads earned league titles. In her four-year career that stretched from 1983-86, she limited opponents to a .190 batting average, second lowest among Beaver pitchers all-time.

“Nobody will ever beat Sam’s 1984 ERA record in the conference. It simply can’t be done.”

Joy (Johnson) Gross ’86

“Sam would be so honored by the Hall of Fame recognition,” says Steve Larson, a 1984 BVU graduate who wed Sam in 1987. The couple had one child, daughter Meredith, who was born in 1994. Meredith Larson will accept the honor on behalf of her mother.

“Sam would just as quickly make this honor about the team. She often talked about what a great defense she had behind her at Buena Vista,” Steve Larson says.

The youngest daughter of the late Russell and Eleanor Meier, Sam (Meier) Larson was raised on the family farm near the small town of Bouton, trailing older sisters Michelle and Holly (Meier) Lester, both of whom played softball at Perry High School. As a prep, Sam followed in their footsteps, then continued her interest by joining the team at BVU.

“We had starting pitchers 1 and 1A,” says Coach Marge Willadsen, who, along with ace pitcher Chanel Finzen ’84, was a previous BVU Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, joining the team in the Hall of Fame as well as individuals Assistant Coach Rusty Moeller and players Jeannine (Demers) Henningsen ’87, Libby Kestel ’85, Susan Mingus ’85, Julie Quirin ’87, Shelly (Barr) Terhark ’86, Jacque Jerkovich ’84 and Gross.

“We loved playing defense behind Sam,” says Gross. “And she was so humble. The first time I met Sam was in a philosophy class and she talked about giving up a home run in high school to the great Connie Yori, of Ankeny. Sam had the confidence that she could share a story about one of those rare times in which she failed. She was that type of person.”

“I’m surprised our garage didn’t have holes in it from the way she could move her pitches,” says Lester. “Sam had such long fingers, people said she could have also been a great pianist. She was terribly competitive once she was in the pitcher’s circle.”

BVU’s School of Education and its softball program attracted Larson to BVU. Following her graduation in 1986, she taught special education in Mason City for one year. She then joined the West Des Moines Community School District as a multi-categorical special education instructor. She earned a master’s degree in special education from Iowa State University and served the Area Education Agency in working with special education teachers and local school administrators.

“Being a special education teacher was a massive part of Sam’s life,” Steve Larson says. “She was just a handful of hours short of her second master’s degree when she got sick in 1997.”

Aplastic anemia is a failure of bone marrow. She received a bone marrow transplant in 1997 at the University of Iowa, and died in February of 1999 due to continued complications of the bone marrow transplant therapy. As in many cases of aplastic anemia, the specific cause of her illness was never identified, according to Steve Larson, who went to work for Be the Match/National Marrow Donor Program, and now serves Thermo Fisher Scientific in cell and gene therapy.

Meredith Larson, who played high school softball like her mother, is as a bone marrow transplant nurse at the University of Utah.

“Working with patients and their families in this field has given me a perspective of what my parents went through,” says Meredith Larson, who works to serve others in memory of her mother, the longtime educator whose sterling BVU athletic career will be celebrated with her Hall of Fame enshrinement.

“I hesitate to put words into Sam’s mouth, but I know she’d be so humbled by this recognition,” Steve Larson says. “It’s bittersweet she’s no longer with us to accept this award. And yet, it is such an honor and a blessing that BVU remembers her and everything her teams accomplished.”