Feb. 6, 2008
By Rebecca Rogers
Norris Frederick knows exactly what his goals are.
"I am going to be a national champion," Frederick said. "I want the load on my shoulders. I want to make the 2008 Olympic team and I am really confident that I can."
Actually those are not so much goals as they are statements. While most people shy away from pressure situations, Frederick thrives on them. While most people would hesitate to make such bold remarks, Frederick says they are already true.
Frederick is one of the most decorated athletes on the Washington track and field team. The senior is a five-time All-American, the reigning Pac-10 and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) long jump champion, and the only Husky ever to long jump more than 25 feet and high jump 7 feet.
However, this acclaimed athlete didn't even get into the sport of track and field until his sophomore year of high school, and that was only because he was given an ultimatum after getting into some trouble.
Frederick grew up in Seattle and attended Roosevelt High School. He played basketball all his life, growing up around the sport and watching his friends and older brother play it. In his sophomore year of high school, Norris and three teammates got in trouble for missing the bus for an away game. The coach punished them by giving them a choice: Either play a spring sport or go through spring conditioning. Norris chose to participate in track.
"I didn't even know my school had a track team until my coach gave us that offer," Frederick said. "If I had never gotten in trouble, track would have never even been in the picture."
While basketball remained his top priority, Norris began to take a liking to track and field, especially the high jump and long jump.
"The funny thing is that I looked my track coach in the face and told him I was going to win state in the high jump," Frederick said. "He laughed at me and said, `Norris, you can't just get into a sport and expect to win it.'"
To Frederick, that only made him want to succeed more. In his first meet --jumping in basketball shorts and basketball shoes -- Frederick high jumped 6-feet-4-inches, moving him to first in the state. Later that year, he went on to win the Washington state title in the high jump.
His junior year, Frederick made the same comment to his coach, and his coach again just laughed. However, Frederick proved him wrong, by winning the state title in both the high jump and long jump. His senior year, his coach finally believed him, but Frederick ended up losing the state title to the national champion.
"My high school coach [Jim Neff] was my biggest supporter," Frederick said. "He was always there for me. My senior year he even flew to Italy to watch me in the world championships. He cared more about me as a person than as an athlete. "
After an unexpected but successful high school track and field career, Frederick was the No.1 recruit coming out of high school in 2004. His top college choices were California, Columbia, Nebraska and the UW. But Frederick said he knew all along that he was going to be a Husky, especially after a home visit from Washington track and field coach Greg Metcalf.
"Anyone who knows me knows I want to be around my mom," Frederick said. "When Metcalf came to my house and sat on my couch, he told my mom that he would look after me. He was just really real, unlike some of the other coaches."
Once at the UW, Frederick couldn't have made a better debut as a Husky. In his first meet of the season his freshman year, Frederick was ranked No.1 in the world after clearing 25-4 1/2 in the long jump. "It was cool," he said.
"I'm so hard on myself that I didn't expect anything less," Frederick said.
However, just when everything seemed to be looking up, his world was suddenly shaken by the unexpected death of his father.
"I was really close to my dad, but I'm the kind of guy that keeps things in," Frederick said. "I just came to school and practiced like nothing had ever happened."
Keeping true to his word to Frederick's mother, Metcalf took Norris aside and said it would be okay if he took some time off. But Frederick knew that if he took time off he'd never come back, and despite having some trouble in school and track, he kept going, especially with the support of his coach.
"Coach Metcalf has always been a big supporter for me," Frederick said. "He's always there no matter what the situation is. He also knows I'll do anything he asks me to without question."
After his freshman year, Frederick only continued to improve. Last year he became the regional champion after jumping 26 1 in the long jump, barely edging out an Arizona State competitor who had just jumped 26 feet even. He then went on to win the Pac-10 title in the long jump.
While his successes may be numerous as a Husky, part of that can be explained by his intense hatred of losing. Whether on the track or playing video games with his roommate, Frederick hates to lose.
"I can't stand losing," Frederick said. "The toughest part about losing is that you put in all that work, you put in all that time, and someone just comes and takes it away from you."
Washington assistant track coach LaMonte Vaughn once told Frederick, "A true champion carries himself like a champion. He doesn't need to let the world know he's good; the world just knows that he's good."
Frederick knows that he is good, and it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on.