Frey hurdles expectations

She was just another runner on that first day of track practice during her freshman year.

As a walk-on, Sarah Frey’s arrival at Eastern Washington University wasn’t highly anticipated. Expectations were modest, as they are for most nonscholarship athletes. Just make practice and maybe score a point in a meet during her senior year.

But Frey, an Olympia High School graduate and now a senior at EWU, has surprised her coaches and maybe even herself.

Last week at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., Frey ran the second-fastest 400-meter hurdles in school history, finishing in 1 minute, 0.39 seconds for fifth place. She also ran the school’s second-fastest time in the 100-meter hurdles, finishing in a personal-best time of 14.44 seconds.

She then ran the leadoff leg of the 400-meter relay team that finished in 46.28 seconds, fifth-fastest in school history.

“Sarah is dynamite,” EWU coach Stan Kerr said. “Her work ethic is unmatched.”

Frey, who came to Eastern as an above-average high school sprinter, could have piled up some fifths and sixths by her senior year as a sprinter.

“She didn’t have the speed to compete in the 100 (meters) at this level,” Kerr said. “If you’re going to expend the energy, let’s go for the top of the podium.”

So Frey became a hurdler, where the equation for winning is speed plus technique. Since last summer, Frey has been perfecting that technique. She’s lengthening her stride, going from 15 to 14 steps between each hurdle.

And now that freshman with no expectations has an ambitious goal – a school record in the 400 hurdles. She’ll have to drop more than two seconds to beat 58.12, the school record set by Seville Broussard in 1996.

“Our goal is to break that record by the regional meet,” Kerr said. “I joke with her all the time about her coming here as a walk-on.”

A school record usually isn’t something achieved by a walk-on, but Frey could be the exception.

“She’s very smooth, very quick,” Kerr said. “She’s also very determined.”

By perfecting her technique and by improving her endurance, Frey has become the second-fastest hurdler this spring in the Big Sky Conference.

Frey’s story isn’t about merely fulfilling expectations. It’s about being the surprising achiever, doing better than anyone had hoped.

Johnson is tournament MVP

Kevin Johnson went to Saint Augustine’s College to play quarterback.

He was going to throw touchdowns, not hit home runs.

But during his freshman year, Johnson, a former all-league quarterback at Black Hills High School, switched to baseball. It’s been a good decision for Johnson and for Saint Augustine’s, an NCAA Division II college in Raleigh, N.C.

Johnson has been a four-year starter in right field, helping a perennial loser turn into a winner. The Falcons, who finished 6-28 during Johnson’s freshman year, are 35-19 this season.

“The team was really bad my freshman year,” Johnson said. “It was a tough situation. We only had 12 guys turning out and we called ourselves the dirty dozen.”

Saint Augustine’s defeated Virginia State, 6-3, in the championship game of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s conference tournament Saturday. Johnson, who scored the go-ahead run when he raced home on a wild pitch, was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

“Kevin was one of our clutch players this year,” said Anthony Jeffries, Saint Augustine’s sports information director. “He was always the one coming up with the big play when we needed it.”

With the Falcons trailing Virginia State in first inning of the title game, 2-0, Johnson drilled a two-run single to tie the game. With the score tied in the sixth at 3, Johnson singled, stole second and third, then raced home on a wild pitch.

“You try not to think of the outcome,” Johnson said. “You just try to stay relaxed. You just look for the right pitch.”

The Falcons’ 35 wins are a school record for a season. They hope to get an invitation to the NCAA Division II tournament.

Johnson batted .299, drove in 37 runs and scored 37 runs. He hit three home runs and seven doubles. He batted .365 as a junior, .323 as a sophomore and .264 as a freshman.

He hopes he’s not finished playing baseball.

“I’d love to continue my baseball career,” Johnson said. “That’s always a dream.”

Menefee honored

Nate Menefee has made one point clear about basketball.

Whether he’s playing for The Evergreen State College or the Olympia Reign, Menefee can always score.

The guard averaged 29.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists to help Olympia win its first two games of the season, beating Tacoma, 97-95, on Friday and Bellingham, 120-108, on Saturday.

“Nate is one of the best guards to come out of here,” Reign coach Steve Smothers said.

Menefee was of one of three players named a player of the week by the International Basketball League.

Menefee and the Reign play the Tacoma Tide again at 7 p.m. Friday at the South Puget Sound Community College. Tickets are $6 for ages 18 and older and $3 for ages 17 and younger.