It's easy to decipher when Squalicum senior cross country runner Chris Fredlund decided to make running a lifestyle. All it takes is a look at his 5,000-meter times during his Storm career.
Fredlund went from running season bests of 16 minutes, 59.14 seconds to 16:56.5 his freshman and sophomore years, respectively. Then came his junior season, a year in which he ran a 16:00.7 at the 2012 Class 2A State Championships and placed 11th.
Between his sophomore and junior year, Fredlund improved 41 places and 55.8 seconds at state, and he carried over his dedication to running this fall when he put together the finest season of his career.
"I think I was most proud of two things," Squalicum cross country coach Katrina Henry said in a phone interview. "One is the leadership role he took on this season. He really stepped up, and he always led by example. Two would be the commitment he made to running over the last year. He's always been committed to running, but he goes beyond the 3 to 5 (p.m.) at practice."
Fredlund separated himself all year as Whatcom County's top boys' runner and finished a county-best third place during the Class 2A State Championships with a career-best 15:39.26. Fredlund has been selected The Bellingham Herald's All-Whatcom Boys' Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
He finished top three in every 5,000-meter race, including a title at the Northwest Conference Championships with a 15:50.7 and a second-place finish of 16:02.66 during the 2A District 1/2 Championships.
But before this fall, Fredlund was never the Storm's top runner. That honor belonged to now graduated Division I-runner Patrick Gibson. Not only was Fredlund responsible for posting strong individual times, he was being relied on to lead Squalicum, and the Storm's second-place finish at state was its best during Fredlund's career.
"I think he handled it very well," said Henry of Fredlund's ability to step into Squalicum's No.1 spot and handle the leadership responsibilities that go along with it. "I think it was a little bit of an adjustment. He is a great teammate and was able to share his experiences. He made the effort to try to get to know everybody and made a huge difference on the team."
Part of Fredlund's success as a leader, Henry said, is his magnetic personality.
"He is such a fun person to be around," said the Storm coach. "He is well-rounded and has a great sense of humor and is really team-oriented. Other than that, what stuck out to me is his maturity level. He is kind of goofy and makes a lot of jokes, but he knows when it is time to be serious about running."
That seriousness was displayed throughout the season and during the off months.
Fredlund got extremely in-tune with his body, maintained a proper eating plan and made the necessary health steps in order to get his body at peak shape when the fall season began.
"That preventative stuff can make a big difference," Henry said,
But what Fredlund couldn't prepare for was getting used to leading the front of a race pack. Throughout his career he was able to tail Gibson and other Northwest Conference runners. This season Henry said it was an adjustment for him to lead and not work off other runners, but he still churned out strong result after strong result.
Katrina said Fredlund set a number of goals for himself, and two of those were to place top five at state, which he did, and he also wanted to help his entire team get to state. Besides his third-place finish, teammate Nick Gallaher took 12th, Chais Sugden placed 42nd, Jared Radtke took 68th, Justin Rinauro was 71st, Dylan Tomberlin was 79th and Dillon Rinauro finished 108th to limit Squalicum's score to 128, only 26 more points than first-place Sehome.
"I was really impressed with that," said Henry of Fredlund's state meet time drop. "With higher-caliber runners, improvements become smaller. You are running at a consistently high level, and for him to drop 11 seconds on a pretty hard course is a pretty big deal."
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