December 8th, 2014

BU's Frith comes in fourth at nationals

Adam Pruiett

Bellarmine University Assistant S.I.D

BU's Frith comes in fourth at nationals
Frith came in fourth / photo from Bellarmine athletic department

With her friends, family, teammates and the Bellarmine University community as a whole rallying around her, Emily Frith went out Saturday in the rain and mud at the 2014 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships and delivered the crowning achievement of her unparalleled career.

In her final collegiate cross country race, which fittingly took place on her home course at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park, the Knights' senior became a two-time All-American by finishing fourth overall and solidified her place as the most accomplished harrier in BU history.

"It was a perfect ending to a really great career," Bellarmine Coach Kris Horton said.

"I'm super excited," said Frith, who finished in 21:16.7 in a race that was shortened from a 6K to a 5.78K due to the sloppy conditions caused by relentless rain over several days. "I couldn't have asked for a better end to my season. I definitely tried as hard as I could, and I went away feeling like I gave it my all."

In doing so, Frith secured the best finish at the NCAA Championships in program history. The native of Crab Orchard, Kentucky, bested the 12th-place outing of Angela Musk in 2012. Musk, a huge supporter of her former teammate, warmed up with Frith before Saturday's race. Two years ago, Frith placed 31st at nationals to earn her first All-America honor.

Grand Valley State easily won the women's team title, posting a 50 behind the top three individual performances. Sophomore Kendra Foley won the individual championship in 21:05.80, senior Allyson Winchester was next in 21:11.50 and junior Jessica Janecke placed third in 21:14.70. Frith was right behind and cleared the finish line a mere 11 seconds back of Foley.

"There were probably 10 girls who could have legitimately won it," said Frith, who placed second at the Midwest Regional. "Everybody that was up in that front pack deserved to be there. We raced our guts out."

And they did it in uncompromising conditions.

"We had mud from our toes to our head," Frith said.

As a result, Horton emphasized to Frith that getting out quickly was imperative. As sensational as Frith is in long-distance running, the two-time defending Great Lakes Valley Conference Runner of the Year readily concedes that acceleration out of the gate isn't her strong suit. However, Horton said she was among the top 15 at the 1K mark and had pushed into the top five by 2,400 meters.

"I knew at that point, there was no doubt it was going to end well," Horton said. "She went for it, and it was just awesome to watch."

Horton noticed a distinct change in Frith's demeanor than he usually observes before a prestigious meet. The Lincoln County High School product says she's always a nervous wreck before competitions, and it stands to reason that her anxiousness would have been magnified on Saturday. However, that wasn't the case at Tom Sawyer for Bellarmine's record holder in both the 5K and 6K.

"Mentally she was as calm, confident and composed as I've ever seen her in a race of this magnitude," Horton said. "I had a feeling deep down that she was ready for a big day.

"It was awesome. The biggest thing was she didn't sell herself short. I don't think she could have run any better. I'm really proud of her and all she's done, and what she's meant to the program as a whole."

Right before the meet, as Frith was getting set for the most important race of her life, her teammates gathered in back of her and belted out encouragements, many of which were humorous and put her at ease. By the end, they were celebrating a legend.\

"I probably looked like an idiot because I couldn't stop smiling at the starting line," Frith said with a chuckle, "but it's one of the best days of my life.

"It was so special. It was almost too good to be true. At the end, I was so emotional. I couldn't have asked for a better day." 



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