News-Argus Men's Cross Country ROY: Nik Fredrick (C.B. Aycock)
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on December 23, 2007 2:02 AM
As a sophomore in high school, walking away from a sport he had played since he was a kid wasn't easy for Nik Fredrick.
A little over a year later, as a junior at Charles B. Aycock, the decision to give up football for cross country might just be one of the best decisions Fredrick, the 2007 News-Argus male runner of the year, has ever made.
Fredrick was a tight end and defensive end for the Golden Falcons football squad before the daily grind and constant poundings of practice began to grow old. With his mother a former cross country standout at the University of Wisconsin, Fredrick opted to follow in his mother's footsteps.
" I had played football ever since I was about 10 years old," Fredrick said. "I just got tired of practicing every single day in those hot pads for four hours. I was always fascinated with my mom because she was just so talented in high school and college.
"She actually ran in the qualifying for the Olympics for the marathon and that always fascinated me."
Fredrick admits leaving football was difficult at times, particularly when he found himself watching it on television. Eventually those pains subsided, and some of his former football teammates began joining him on the cross country team which rekindled some friendly rivalries.
"I really like to show up the fast guys on the football team and compare myself to them," Fredrick said. "Sure, they're faster sprint-wise and bigger than I am, but I just like to show them up. They're still getting good exercise and it's putting them in pretty good shape."
Fredrick's been able to chase down plenty of success since lacing up his running shoes. After finishing second in the Wayne County meet last season, and third at the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference meet, Fredrick captured both this season.
He attributes his success to the persistent reminders from his mother about the importance of training, and having close friend and teammate Caroline Schlaeppi as motivation.
"My mom always tell me, if I don't run a day, she always says, 'I want you to know those boys from Wilson Hunt are running,'" Fredrick said. "I know there's people out there that are doing it. Caroline keeps me motivated. I don't ever want to get beat by her."
Aside from keeping him in shape, cross country has also retooled Fredrick's thinking toward team sports and just what it means to be a leader. After spending numerous seasons in the team-first environment of football, Fredrick didn't anticipate encountering that same atmosphere when he ventured into the world of competitive running.
"I was really excited that even though it is a team sport that I could do it by myself," Fredrick said. "I'm one of the most competitive people you'll ever meet, and I just love winning. After last year and this year, I've come to realize that it is more of a team sport than I thought.
"I love to look out for the rest of my teammates, and I love it when they break their previous best times."
While Fredrick dreams of running at the collegiate level when his time at Aycock is done, regardless of where the future takes him, he's pretty sure he won't get there by walking.
"I want to run at a Division I school and I want this to be a lifetime sport for me," Fredrick said. "Even if this does end after high school, I don't want that to be the last day that I run.
"I want to make it so I stay in shape the rest of my life."
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