In her second year of college, Aspen Frey joined the cross-country team at McPherson College. In the process of following her love for running, she qualified to race at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national cross-country championships at Fort Vancouver, Wash.
Frey joined her teammates when only three cross-country meets remained on the 2011 schedule and found herself very competitive in her first races.
“I ran track last spring and my track and field teammates kept telling me I should try cross-country,” said Frey.
At the college level, the women’s race is 5,000 meters, which is a longer distance than Frey ran at Goessel High School. In her senior year at Goessel, she ran the two-mile race, medaling at the high school state track meet and participated with the 4x800-meter relay that medaled two years in a row at state.
Frey’s best time in college at the 5,000-meter distance is 19 minutes, 48.43 seconds. In order to qualify for Nationals, runners need to either go as the KCAC Conference winning team or finish in the top five of the runners who do not qualify as a team. On a very windy race day, Nov. 5, she finished in 20:17.33, ninth place individually at the conference meet.
Friends University won the KCAC team championship with six of the top 11 runners coming from the one team. One individual from each school; Tabor, Southwestern, Bethel, McPherson, and Ottawa rounded out the top 11 and Frey will be the representative for the Bulldogs.
“I’m glad she tried it, because she runs all the time anyway,” her mother, Linda Frey, said.
“Aspen is a tremendously hard worker both at practice and in the classroom,” McPherson College cross-country coach Cameron Magnall said. “The talent that she possesses for running makes the sky the limit for her.”
As would be expected when racing 3.1 miles, many miles are traveled in practice.
“I would guess that I run about 40 miles in a week,” said Frey.
Traveling to the NAIA nationals with Aspen will be her mother and coach. The trio will fly into Portland, Ore., where they will be a short distance from the course.
Thirty-two teams qualified for the national race with many individuals from NAIA schools. Organizers expect approximately 330 runners to begin the championship race.
“I don’t know what to expect for results,” Frey said. “I think I will just do my best and see what happens.”
Frey runs at 11:45 a.m. Pacific time on Saturday.