By Katie Gerber
Ka-ta-ka-ta, Ka-ta-ka-ta. Dozens of pairs of Nike, Asics, UnderArmour, Brooks and Puma tennis shoes rhythmically beat the eight cracked and faded asphalt topped lanes of the Elk Mound High School track. Some 800 meters later, the Elk Mound track and field team swarm onto the football field. Throughout the laughing, jostling and the latest gossip, the 70 plus athletes stretch to prepare their rapidly firing muscles for the workouts ahead.
The man behind these workouts is Elk Mound’s new track and field coach, Jeremiah Fredrickson.
For the past 12 years Fredrickson coached the distance team for Elk Mound High School under head coach Jeff Mack. When Mack retired at the end of the 2016 season, Fredrickson stepped up. Fredrickson has brought experience as well as fun to the track … and the field.
Before coaching at the high school level, Fredrickson competed in track and field in college while he helped coach his club team at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
“When I was at River Falls we didn’t have a men’s track program and so we had a track club and I was the student coach … I coached the mid-distance and the pole vault which basically meant I coached myself and some of my buddies,” Fredrickson said.
With over 70 athletes in the track and field program this year, Fredrickson’s coaching experience and teaching skills are being put to use.
There are more than 15-first time runners on the team as well as returning letter-winners, which according to Fredrickson gives the Mounders not only top-end talent but also stability within the team.
“The team looks really good,” Fredrickson said- “(The) girls have a lot of depth. We have over 44 girls on the team … and our guys while we don’t have as much depth has a lot more top-end talent.”
Fredrickson says that the team will be competitive and hopes to see runners repeat their 2016 conference title win. Fredrickson predicted the Mounders have some individuals on the team who have a shot at the WIAA State track and field meet at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
However, these championships and titles are not the primary goals of the new head coach.
“Every year our goal is to improve individually and I want the kids to look at what they can do and try to get better,” Fredrickson said.
The change in coaching staff has not only been noted by upperclassman who spent years under the direction of Mack but also by newcomers to the Elk Mound track and field program.
Emily Winchester said that she has enjoyed her introduction to the track and field program and appreciates Fredrickson’s laid back coaching style. Winchester said that Fredrickson gives the athletes the freedom to choose their own events and lets them have a say in where they compete.
Second-year participant Meredith Hainstock, who has had Fredrickson as a coach during the cross-country season, responded positively to the change in coaching staff as well.
“It’s really nice because he knows how I work and what I can do and he pushes me to do that … it’s different but I like it,” Hainstock said.
Kyle Hazen, first time assistant distance coach, says that Fredrickson has filled the role of head coach admirably.
“I think coach is doing a great job,” Hazen said, — “Fred gives (them) the right workouts and he coaches them the right way and he passes on his knowledge to me and we pass it on to the kids. (The potential) depends on what the kids want to put into it.”
During a recent practice Fredrickson made the rounds, making sure the potential was at its peak. In the weight room he chatted with injured athletes. On the track he observed sprinters and field event athletes. In the pool, he confirmed that the athletes submerged their legs in the livestock troughs filled with frozen waterbottles. Regardless of where the athletes were during practice, Fredrickson made sure that each one was healthy and ready to compete.
Sarah Sweeney, a senior, said that she thinks the transition in coaching staff has gone quite smoothly. Primarily a sprinter and field event athlete, Sweeney worked with Mack for her first three seasons of track and field. While she admits it’s an adjustment she said that having had both perspectives she can maximize her results as an athlete.
“I think we need more Freds, like we need to multiply them because we need them at every section of the track at all times,” Sweeney said.
While there is only one coach Fredrickson, he says he plans on staying at the finish line. Fredrickson said that he is enthusiastic about the young team and while he will welcome the championships and titles he will also welcome the fun and individual improvement.