Joe Freiburger was honored Tuesday, Sept. 29 by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) with the D-III Cross Country National Athlete of the Week, making him the first male cross country athlete to win the award in Wartburg history. 

Freiburger is the first Knight to win the award since Ashlyn Bagge, a 2018 Wartburg graduate, won the award on the women’s side in 2017. Bagge was the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC)’s MVP in 2017, and she earned her lone All-American honor in 2016.

“Chapman told me I’m the first male athlete to get the honor so that’s a pretty cool honor, though I don’t know when they started it,” Freiburger said of the award the USTFCCCA began recognizing in August 2013. “That puts me in the conversation with like Josh Moenn (2005 alum, four-time All-American) and Brian Chenoweth (2009 alum, nine-time IIAC champion in cross country and Track), and it’s really cool to be seen as a part of their ranks as one of the Wartburg greats.”

Freiburger, an All-American from last year, has been the Knights’ most valuable performer over the course of the season. Through three contests, Freiburger has taken first place in every race he has competed in. Most recently, at the Dan Huston Triangular on Saturday, Freiburger finished in first place for the third-straight meet of the season.

Freiburger’s impact on the course speaks for itself, but on a cross country team full of young depth, his impact has also been felt like a mentor to teammates.

“[Freiburger] is a leader, he’s a grinder from the start,” Christopher Collet, a second-year cross country runner, said. “It’s a constant motivator. Every practice, every meet, you know that Joe Freiburger is gonna be right there in front of you. Especially with this year with less competition due to fewer schools, it’s nice to have a constant motivator.”

Freiburger, a fourth-year athletic senior this year, has left no questions about the possibility of a fifth year. With the A-R-C’s shortening of the 2020 cross country season to avoid eligibility landmarks, Freiburger has confirmed his intentions to claim his final year of eligibility in 2021.

“I almost feel like I’m an athlete on scholarship for next year,” Freiburger said. “I was gonna come back and take one class during outdoor track season but now that I don’t have to pay anything I’m going to do the whole entire fall and the spring. It just relieves a tremendous burden.”

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