Track & Field: Leaping to victory
While most track and field athletes competing at the indoor Heptagonal Championships this weekend will approach their respective events with apprehension or quiet optimism as they face the best competition in the Ivy League, senior Justin Frick is taking a different outlook.
“I’m not at all concerned about the high jump,” he said. “The field is pretty weak, so I stand a good chance of winning.”
Though some may question Frick’s nonchalant approach to a championship meet, a quick glance at his jumping resume explains his confidence. Frick, who is fiercely dedicated to the sport, has dominated the Ivy League in his four-year career, winning outdoor Heps as a freshman, both indoor and outdoor titles his sophomore year and the indoor title as a junior. He has also been named first-team All-Ivy for the 2007 outdoor season and the 2008 and 2009 indoor seasons.
“Frick is the definition of a competitor,” senior teammate Chad Faulkner said. “He always performs the best when everything is on the line, and the team has come to expect that of him.”
“He is phenomenal — one of the best on our team, as his record shows,” head coach Fred Samara said.
Frick knew from an early age that he was built for success in the high jump. As a junior in high school, he increased his jump a remarkable 10 inches — from 6 feet to 6’10” — and won the New Jersey Meet of Champions.
“I guess it just kind of clicked one day,” he said. “I was pretty lucky considering I didn’t really have a coach in high school.”
After joining the Princeton track team, Frick enjoyed a strong freshman year thanks in part to a strict training regimen imposed by Samara.
“Coach Samara is a great coach,” Frick said. “He really understands my event and has helped me achieve everything I have. He coaches me well as a person, knowing when to put pressure and when to ease up.”
In addition to taking the outdoor Heps title his freshman year, Frick finished third in Regionals and competed in Nationals for the first time.
“I was an All-American in high school, but it was a lot different with some guys jumping 7’ 8”,” he said. “I got caught up in everything going on, so I didn’t do that well.”
As a sophomore, Frick continued his individual success, winning outdoor Regionals with a 7’ 2.5” jump and finishing 11th in the country at Nationals.
Last year, though, Frick began to run into trouble. He learned during the indoor season that he had fractured two vertebrae in his back, a particularly difficult injury for jumpers. After finishing the indoor season and placing ninth at Nationals, he made the difficult decision to take the outdoor season off to recover from his injury.
“I hated it,” he said. “I really regretted sitting out last spring. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do at Princeton, considering Heps was a close meet, and I know I could’ve turned the tides.”
“He trains very hard and has been a good competitor over the years, so it was hard for him to deal with it,” Samara explained.
This season, though, Frick is fully recovered and ready to make up for lost time.
“Justin is a raw competitor,” senior captain Eric Plummer said. “He’s hard working, very technical and always shows up when the pressure is on.”
This Satruday at Dartmouth, he will make his first appearance in a championship meet since last March, competing in the high jump and his first-ever heptathlon. His more pressing concern at the moment, though, is whether he will qualify for this year’s Nationals.
“The high jump hasn’t been going quite as well for me this year because of heel problems,” he said. “Right now, I’m on the verge of not making Nationals.”
Despite his individual concerns, Frick is quick to put the team first.
“For me, it’s all about putting points on the board and winning the title,” he said. “We won indoor Heps my freshman year, and we’ve been trying hard to recreate that, so hopefully we can do that this year.”
Still, Frick’s teammates said they believe that his individual performances are crucial to the team’s success.
“Frick is the kind of guy that is going to give everything he has to make the most of his last competitive seasons here at Princeton,” Faulkner said. “I expect he will jump his highest heights yet.”
Plummer echoed this sentiment, citing Frick’s intensity.
“I expect and know that Justin will give us nothing less than his best,” Plummer said.