THROUGHOUT HER SENIOR SEASON at Mira Costa High (Manhattan Beach, California) Dalia Frias raced with apparent ease from triumph to triumph: a State XC title, 5th in the deep Running Lane race. Then came the track campaign, in which she crushed it early with a 4:35.06 mile win at the Azusa Pacific Meet of Champions in March that left her at season’s end as No. 5 all-time among preps.
Frias finished that mile with a 68-point final lap to fend off determined rival Sadie Engelhardt by a 10th. Mira Costa coach Renee Williams-Smith told the Daily Breeze newspaper afterwards, “Duke is going to be very happy with her.”
Now that Frias is settling into her frosh year across the country from home environs, Duke distance assistant Angela Reckart wholeheartedly agrees.
“I think something that’s unique about Dalia is she’s very lighthearted,” Reckart says. “I think she has a good perspective of balance. Of keeping things fun and enjoyable.
“I think especially individuals like herself who competed at such a high level in high school, sometimes they can come in and just feel a lot of pressure on their shoulders, but she keeps it fun, which is really refreshing. She’s a joy to work with.”
The “high level” part is undisputable. At the Arcadia Invitational in April Frias cruised away from a hot 3200 field to win in a nation-leading 9:55.50 (9:58.96 2M equivalent). She kept it fast and lighthearted all season, and wrapped her senior year with another pitched battle squeaker, an 8-lap win at the Brooks PR Invitational in June.
Frias outkicked Irene Riggs (Morgantown, West Virginia) 9:50.70–9:50.72 in the 2M, the fastest-ever outdoor prep race, as the pair annexed spots 4 & 5 on the all-time list.
Frias, who brought 4:47.58/10:19.19+ credentials into her final prep year, says with a laugh, “I had not run at all leading into freshman year of high school. I had kind of done every sport in the book. I played ice hockey for 7 years and kind of was burnt out of that, played volleyball for a little bit, but then going into high school, I really just needed something to do. I knew I didn’t want to do PE, and so some of my friends were doing the summer running program going into high school, so I joined in and did that with them and loved the team at first, loved the coaches.
“It was just a great experience overall. And so I decided to keep at it and found out I was pretty good.”
Although Frias treasures the SoCal beach environment in which she grew up, she set her sights on a mid-Atlantic locale for college, and naturally Duke was on her list.
“I knew that I was looking for a good athletic/academic balance and cuz running’s not forever, I want a good degree to come out of college with,” she explains. “So I knew Duke was really high on that list. And so once I came here, it kind of just hit all the boxes. I love the team, the campus is gorgeous, love the location. Everything about it just kind of drew on me and so I ended up here.”
What Reckart has happily discovered is that Frias “actually is very underdeveloped. Almost to the point where, you know, I was joking around with her a lot this fall, like she really didn’t do much in high school, which is a testament to her coach.
“I mean, just keeping her developing year in and year out and not overdoing it in her training. But it’s exciting for me to see because I know, obviously what she’s capable of once we just slowly continue to develop in our sport as we add a little bit more to her training. But it’s gonna be, I think, just a slow process as we continue to just see how she’s responding to that as we start to kinda ramp her training up a bit.”
Frias admits the collegiate jump up to the 6K cross country distance took time (her ACC and Regional placings were 31st and 36th), but “it became more natural and I was able to find better race strategies with it and think of it more as a 6K, not like a 5K with another K.”
With her academic program at Duke tuned, so far, toward eventually working as a physical therapist, Frias says of her collegiate training, “A few things changed. I mean, my mileage has definitely been higher and more consistent than it was in high school. We also do more cross training. We do weight lifting two times a week. So that’s definitely a big plus there. And the workouts are definitely higher intensity, higher volume, just a few like more intense volume adjustments that I had to get used to.
“I think this first freshman season would just be me kinda getting used to the intensity of it. But I think once I do get more in a rhythm of it and my body’s able to adjust to it better, I think things will look really good.”