Mike and Courtney Fregeau share a love of sprinting
Sports | Greta Sowles
Photo for The Clarion by Drea Chalmers.
Junior sprinter Courtney Fregeau has received widespread recognition for setting six schools records throughout her track and field career, but nothing means more to her than the opportunity to run under her father, sprints coach Mike Fregeau. The duo’s love for each other and passion for track and field make them a powerful force in Bethel athletics.
Mike has been coaching at Bethel since 1999, when he started as an assistant football coach. He is in his sixth year coaching sprints and hurdles for both men's and women’s track. Because of his involvement at Bethel, Courtney was always connected with the school. By the time she was a junior in high school, she was confident that Bethel was the school for her.
“Just growing up in the Bethel atmosphere and being around, I knew it was where I wanted to go,” she said.
When Courtney entered her freshman season, she faced considerable pressure to succeed. The young track team was lacking 400-meter runners, and Courtney had direct experience training at Bethel with her father during her high school offseason.
“My dad would be really hard on me, and at the time, it was really difficult,” said Courtney. “I felt like he was picking me out and pushing expectations on me versus other people that were in my class.”
“If I could use Courtney as my guinea pig, it might create good habits in our other girls and as a result, build trust,” added Mike.
It may have been difficult, but Courtney responded well to the pressure. By her sophomore season, she was breaking school records in the 400-meter race as well as the 4x100-meter, 4x200-meter and the 4x400-meter relays. The winning relay team of Ashley Magelssen, Krista McCright, Ashley Quick and Courtney holds the school record in all five short-distance relays for both indoor and outdoor events.
Courtney broke a 7-year-old school record in the 400-meter on the second day of the MIAC outdoor track and field championships last May, running a time of 57.41 seconds and missing first place by a hundredth of a second. At the end of that race, Courtney and her father embraced in joy, even though she hadn’t placed first.
Mike said the moment touched many, including the sprints coach of the winning St. Thomas runner.
“He grabbed my arm and said, ‘I hope you don’t think these tears are because my girl won. These tears are because of what I just witnessed you and your daughter do, and I hope someday I get to do that with my daughter,’” Mike said.
Courtney’s graciousness in complimenting competitors who have outrun her, something her father instilled in her, has often puzzled other athletes.
“I can’t control how they run, and they can’t control how I run,” she said. “I’m leaving all I have on the track, so if they beat me, they ran better than me, and that’s awesome.”
Mike seeks to teach this philosophy to all of his athletes, including his daughter. “Do the very best that you can, and your very best is good enough,” he said.
Both Courtney and her father said track and field is more than getting a better time or crossing the finish line first.
“I don’t even know if I could tell you what time we ran last year at nationals or what place we finished,” Courtney said. “But getting to have that experience with my dad and with the three other girls on my relay team is a memory I will never forget.”
Combining high school and college, Mike is in his 30th year of coaching. Although he isn’t sure how much longer he will coach after Courtney graduates, Mike values the time he is able to spend with her on and off the track.
“I will cherish the time I get to make up with her that I missed as a young coach,” he said. “That’s what makes this thing so special. I just love watching her run.”