Frick’s love of running rekindled in La Crosse

EHS graduate wins half marathon in Minneapolis

Elizabeth Frick

Just a few years ago Elizabeth Frick thought her passion for running had drained, never to return.

Fast forward to 2016-17, when Frick competed in NCAA Division III national championships in two sports, was named her conference’s athlete of the year in cross country, won a half marathon in Minneapolis and is looking forward to one more season of track and field at her new school, the University of Minnesota, where she will work toward a graduate degree.

Frick, an Eagan resident, had a 3.96 grade point average at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where she graduated in May with a degree in exercise sport science and fitness. She will start graduate school at Minnesota in the fall, studying kinesiology.

She was named 2016 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Cross Country Athlete of the Year and finished 21st at the NCAA championships. In May 2017, she was 15th in the 10,000 meters at the Division III track and field meet.

“La Crosse was where I regained my passion for running,” Frick said. “My freshman year (at Concordia University in Milwaukee) was hard. Their training program didn’t mesh with what I thought I needed, and I got burned out.

“I transferred to La Crosse thinking I wouldn’t run there, but I met with the coaches to see if they were interested in a burned-out has-been, and they were so welcoming. I always loved running the bluffs there, and the coaches were unbelievable.”

UW-La Crosse sent off Frick not only with an undergraduate degree but a nomination for NCAA Woman of the Year, an award that recognized athletic and academic excellence. Frick is among 544 nominees nationwide, with the winner announced in October. She is one of four women from her conference to be nominated.

“I was hugely flattered and humbled that our sports information director thought enough of me to nominate me,” Frick said. “I never saw myself as somebody who stood out. I was always somebody who wanted the team to do well.”

The NCAA Woman of the Year award is intended for a student-athlete who has completed her college eligibility, but for Frick that’s not quite the case. She didn’t compete in track and field in her freshman year and has one season of eligibility remaining in that sport, which she will use at Minnesota in the spring.

She will join the Gophers cross country team later this summer “as kind of a graduate assistant coach and someone who helps out wherever she can,” Frick said. “I’ll be involved with recruiting and I’ll do things like help set up the course for the Griak Invitational. I’ll also run in that meet unattached. That just means I can’t wear the Minnesota uniform and I have to pay an entry fee.”

On July 4, Frick won the female championship at the Red, White & Boom! half marathon in Minneapolis, finishing in 1 hour, 25 minutes and 32 seconds. She was 15th overall among 2,279 finishers overall in addition to first among 1,179 females. She won her division by almost two minutes. It was her first race since returning from the NCAA Division III meet in May.

“I ran the same race two years ago (finishing third in the female division) and had about the same time,” Frick said. “The pace wasn’t quite as fast this year because it was warm and humid, and they told the runners ahead of time they should adjust their pace. I’ve run six or seven half marathons and will probably run a full one at some point, but when I finished this one I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m tired.’ ”

Frick didn’t start running competitively until she was a ninth-grader at Eagan High School. She did well enough in a race during physical education class that Rob Graham, a teacher and current Wildcat girls track and field coach, suggested Frick try the sport. She ran for Graham’s track team and the cross country team coached by Lisa Langenhahn, earning seven letters and her team’s Wildcat Award in both sports. She was a four-time All-State cross country runner and was Academic All-State in cross country and track.

“I did most of my 1-on-1 work with coach Langenhahn,” Frick said. “I still keep in touch with Mr. Graham. He’s the one who helped me discover my passion for running.”