THE BIG LEAD: FISHER, FREIBURGER DEFINE XC PRESENT, FUTURE

RYAN REEBENACKER, KNIGHT WIRE CO-MANAGER

There was plenty of fanfare when Aubrie Fisher, Wartburg sophomore cross country runner, solidly beat out teammate and reigning All-American Carina Collet in the first meet of the season.

Separately, there was perhaps more when senior All-American Joe Freiburger made the announcement he would return to the Knights’ for a fifth year. 

Yet last Tuesday, when the two became the first male-female pair in Wartburg history to sweep the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Athlete of the Week awards, they became linked in one particular way: They represent the Knights’ present, and they define their future.

Freiburger’s award was unsurprising but significant. He had already won the award previously this season, becoming the first male athlete in Wartburg cross country history to earn the honor which celebrates the best athlete in each division every week. Yet for Fisher, a relatively unproven sophomore coming into a season with no opportunity for a national title, it’s a revelation.

Fisher’s performance this season has been beyond exemplary; she stunned the Knights’ home crowd at the season opener, finishing 18:28.6 in the five-kilometer, 9 seconds ahead of Collet, who has become a modern Wartburg legend. The sophomore became the first female Knight to be awarded the honor since Ashlyn Bagge in 2016, and it seems likely she may be in the national conversation for years to come.

“Coming in as a freshman, it’s all an adjustment, and there’s a lot you have to learn,” Fisher, who finished within two spots of being an All-American in 2019, said. “This summer I stayed in Waverly and trained with a bunch of girls on the team, which was really nice and helpful.”

Now, three meets into this shortened, five meet season, Freiburger and Fisher have continued to stretch their peak, with neither yet to lose a race. To win national athlete of the week, each set personal records, breaking existing course records in the process, at the Dan Huston Triangular on Oct. 10. Freiburger clocked a personal best time in the eight-kilometer, finishing in 24:42.7, while Fisher won the women’s six-kilometer race with a personal best of 21:32.8.

While the two best runners on this year’s cross country team are lighting up the course this year, the Knights can also rest easy knowing the pair will both be back next year. Freiburger is on the record as saying he will “100%” be taking his fifth year of eligibility, available to him because of the shortened season. Meanwhile, Fisher can potentially redeem a fifth year and return in 2023, but has yet to make an on-the-record decision.

In the meantime, the Knights are in an enviable position; they feel assured of the safety of their future, and presently take two of the most dominant cross country performers of recent memory into the A-R-C championships on Nov. 7 in Pella in an effort to bring home yet another conference title.

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