Heading into the 2013 cross-country season, perhaps only one thing was certain in regards to incoming La Cañada High senior runner Anna Frederich.
“She definitely brings the energy. She’s always brought the energy for our team and we owed her a lot because of that,” La Cañada High alumna Sonja Cwik said. “In fact, that’s what made her a great teammate. She cared about everyone and put other people’s needs ahead of her own.”
Cwik, the 2012 All-Area Girls’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year, and Frederich were teammates on one of the most prolific Spartans squads in recent memory as the 2012 La Cañada cross-country team won a second straight Rio Hondo League team championship, holding off rival San Marino, while finishing seventh at the CIF Southern Section Division III Finals and advancing to the CIF State Meet in Fresno for the first time since the 1990s.
At state, the Spartans took 11th thanks in part to the efforts of seniors Cwik (15th, 18:45), Hannah Yoho (20:48) and Michelle Dominguez (21:14).
“That was such an amazing team with great chemistry. We had some great seniors on that team that I miss dearly,” Frederich said. “We clicked from the first day. I don’t think we knew we were going to go as far as we did, but we knew that we were going to work hard as a team.”
As for the 2013 squad?
“We knew we were young with a lot of freshmen and sophomores and girls who were on the team for the first time,” Frederich said. “It was going to take some work, but that was part of the fun, watching the team develop. I was so proud of the girls.”
In 2013, the Spartans did not advance back to the CIF State Finals or defend their league championship crown.
Yet, as an individual runner, Frederich, like Cwik, grew to become the area’s top competitor, winning her second Rio Hondo League individual championship and posting better times throughout the postseason than any area runner.
For those achievements and more, Frederich has been unanimously chosen the 2013 All-Area Girls’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year by the sports writers and editors of the La Cañada Valley Sun, Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader.
“I know this going to sound like a cliché, but I knew Anna would be a great leader because she’s a great motivator. She gets everyone going,” Spartans girls’ Coach Jenn Strople said. “From JV to varsity, from the new girls to the veterans, she was helping everyone, cheering everyone on and her teammates loved her. She had this energy that rubs of on everyone.”
Frederich certainly put together some solid efforts in the early season as the 18-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology-bound lover of engineering finished third at the Bosco Tech Invitational large-school, middle-school race in 18:31.9 at Santa Fe Dam on Sept. 7, second in her heat of the 1.9-mile Fastback Shootout at Mt. San Antonio College on Sept. 14 and was fourth (17:18) in the Woodbridge Invitational girls’ rated race on Sept. 21.
The week following Woodbridge, however, could very well have been classified as Frederich’s coming out part.
On Thursday, Sept. 25, Frederich and her squad arrived at Santa Fe Dam for the league’s first cluster meet only to find that the Camino Del Rey Assn. was already in the process of hosting its two league meets.
An hour-and-15-minute delay didn’t faze Frederich, however, who was flat out dominant on an afternoon in which San Marino upset La Cañada, 35-39.
While the Spartans were edged out, no one was in the same area code as Frederich individually, as La Cañada’s top runner held a 25-second lead over teammate Colleen Mispagel at the midway point before exploding to a win in 18:06.42, which was more than a minute ahead of race runner-up Alissa Barraza (19:15.54) of San Marino.
“I think that day sort of established that it was Anna and everyone else,” San Marino Coach Eduardo Mundo said. “Everyone else would have to battle for second.”
The individual triumph, however, was only half as sweet as what the Spartans accomplished three days later at the 40th annual Bellarmine-Jefferson Invitational at Griffith Park.
Running in their third competition within seven days, La Cañada claimed the white race with 53 points, besting Mission League stalwarts Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (76) and Chaminade (77).
Frederich led the way, winning her first invitational of the season in 18:31, which was 25 seconds ahead of the event’s runner-up.
“I think as a team that race was the most fun this year. It’s always cool to win a race as an individual,” said Frederich, who was took home a winner’s knapsack, “but it’s just so much better when you can celebrate with your teammates. We won this together as a team, I got a cool backpack and we also got a big trophy.”
While Frederich had professed a desire to win a Bell-Jeff bag for the last couple of years, perhaps a bigger aspiration was to run under 18 minutes at Mt. SAC.
Frederich’s first try came at the Mt. SAC invitational on Oct. 25, when she put on an electric effort in finishing second in the Division III race in 18:13.
Even though Frederich didn’t complete her immediate goal, she carried plenty of steam after that performance into the Rio Hondo League championships at Lacy Park on Nov. 7, where she captured her first Rio Hondo League championship since her freshman year in 2010. Frederich’s time of 18:18.84 was well ahead of her mark of 19:32 from three years earlier.
“I don’t think it was any surprise this time that she won,” Strople said. “League was hers for the taking.”
Two weeks later, Frederich found herself alone at Mt. SAC for the Division III finals — sort of.
With the Spartans unable to advance as a team beyond the Division III preliminaries, Frederich was representing her school at the divisional finals on Nov. 23.
Just in case stakes needed to be raised any higher, Frederich was also racing for the last time at Mt. SAC and with one final chance to run a sub-18-minute race.
Such information and circumstances, though, proved more inspirational than burdensome for Frederich, who was mobbed by an army of supporters after she ran a personal-best time of 17:57 in finishing third in Division III all while securing herself a berth to season-ending CIF State Finals in Fresno.
“It was amazing to see Anna advance. We all knew she was capable of making it to state, but you still get nervous,” said Spartans junior runner Ethan Angold, La Cañada’s top boys’ runner.
Angold and freshman Seve Rodriguez, both members of the boys’ team, along with Eloise Dimase-Nordling and Mispagel, trained with Frederich over the last two weeks and all made the trip up to Woodward Park for the finals on Nov. 30.
“I wasn’t surprised when some of the guys trained with Anna over the last two weeks. Everyone wanted to see her do well,” Spartans boys Coach Nick LaCapria said. “She just has this energy, this positive nature. She supports everyone and so in return she also received a lot of support.”
Frederich may have saved her best effort for last as she passed five runners over the final 500 meters in placing seventh at state in Division III in 18:17.
“Everyone always talks about how much energy I have and so it was put-up or shut-up time. This was my last race, there was no holding back,” Frederich said. “Once I finished, I was just so happy because I gave everything I had. The finish was more than I could have hoped for.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. All I knew is that I was going to give it my best and expend all my energy.”