The steeplechase is an event fraught with challenges. It is also one of the most iconic and historic of athletic events. The later one gets in the race, the larger the barriers seem to be! Courtney Frerichs had an amazing race on Day 7 of the Trials. This is how Lindsay Rossmiller wrote about Frerich’s race and her excitement over her amazing 2016 season!
By: Lindsay Rossmiller
EUGENE, Ore. – Courtney Frerichs closed faster than anyone else, running her final lap in 69.96 seconds, to jump from fourth place into second and land one of the spots on the U.S. Olympic Team in the women’s steeplechase at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Frerichs passed her Bowerman Track Club teammate, Colleen Quigley, to finish in 9:20.92. Emma Coburn won in 9:17.48 and Quigley was third in 9:21.29.
The final was so deep that it included seven of the last NCAA champions in the field. Frerichs is the most recent to join that club.
It has been quite the year for Frerichs. In June of 2015, Frerichs was runner-up to Quigley at the NCAA championships and graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City. Shortly after, Frerichs found out that her coach, James Butler was leaving UMKC for the University of New Mexico. After debating what to do, she eventually wound up at UNM shortly before classes began for her fifth year of eligibility and to begin a graduate program.
In the fall of 2015, she helped the Lobos win the NCAA Cross Country title. She got engaged, and then capped it all off with not only an individual NCAA steeplechase title, but also the collegiate record.
Thursday night, Frerichs extended her streak to make her first Olympic team and will travel to Rio in August.
However, Frerichs originally thought she might go to the Olympics in a different sport.
“That was the goal, like as a seven-year-old, it was to go to the Olympics in gymnastics and I always aspired to be there,” said Frerichs.
She competed in gymnastics for 15 years, did soccer, and started track in junior high where she did the triple jump and 800 meters. Frerichs only began running cross country her senior year of high school.
In 2012 after her freshman year of college, Frerichs traveled to Barcelona, Spain for the World Junior Championships.
“I didn’t make the final, but at the conclusion of my race, my coach told me that I’d earned the right to have an Olympic dream and the goal was to get to the Trials in 2016,” said Frerichs. “He’s believed in me the whole time.”
And while he may have been the one who originally saw Frerichs’ potential and believed in her, the results of their success in the last month has shot Frerichs up to the highest levels of her sport.
“The last three weeks really have been a whirlwind from winning my first NCAA individual, I mean really the last year. I won a team title, something I never thought I was ever going to get in my career, with the most amazing team I could ask for,” said Frerichs. “I owe those girls so much for pushing me to this level and then to win my first individual title and then to sign with the group that I’d been really hoping to sign with and I have an amazing new teammate.”
After NCAAs, Frerichs announced her intentions of becoming professional. She signed with Nike and officially became a member of the Bowerman Track Club in Portland, Ore. where Quigley trains. Although since NCAAs, Frerichs has continued training for the Trials with Butler in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In her first final as a professional, Frerichs stayed in the pack and began to get dropped when Coburn started to pull the field apart in the last two laps.
“I crossed with 400 to go in fourth and I just told myself that I wasn’t going to get fourth,” said Frerichs.
She began making up ground. Stephanie Garcia fell over the final barrier and Frerichs caught up to Quigley on the home stretch.
They crossed the line at Hayward Field and spent their victory lap splashing through the rainy night, but no one seemed to mind.
“Colleen [Quigley] and I have been roommates this whole time so we’re not going to be sleeping tonight,” said Frerichs. “We’re just going to be up in the clouds.”