Up Closer: Oklahoma Running Giants In The Olympic Trials » Oklahoma Sports & Fitness Athlete Blog | Running | Triathlon | Cycling | Fitness | Martial Arts | Powered by Oklahoma Sports & Fitness Magazine

Aug 162016

As we tune into an amazing two weeks of Rio Olympic coverage, it’s fitting to shed some light on a few of the Okie’s that vied to be one the infinitesimally small pool of athletes that gets the honor of competing on the grandest stage of all in track and field. These are some athletes who have dedicated their young lives to a singular focus, but also who achieved athletic heights in spite of unlikely circumstances for doing so and all while based right here in Oklahoma.

Frezer Legesse, is an Oklahoma City native who came to running late in his career at U.S. Grant High School, a school with little means to promote and support high level athletics. Nonetheless, he has reached the heights he now occupies by attending college in state, running for Mark Thompson at Oklahoma Christian and Martin Smith at OU. After college, he has continued to train on Oklahoma soil. I caught up with Frezer after his Olympic Trials performances, where he advanced to the semifinals, in the midst of the summer race season on his way back from a win at road mile in New Orleans:

Background and Highlights:

• University of Oklahoma Program Record Holder Distance Medley Relay (9:29.44)

• 2013 Big 12 Indoor Champion (DMR)

• 2013 Big 12 Indoor Scorer (DMR)

• 2013 Big 12 Indoor Scorer (800 Meter Run)

• 2013 Big 12 Indoor Scorer (Mile)

• 2012 NCAA First Team Indoor AllAmerican (DMR)

• 2012 Big 12 Indoor Scorer (1,000 Meter Run, Mile)

• 2011 Big 12 Indoor Scorer (1,000 Meter Run, Distance Medley Relay)

Personal Bests

1000 m — 2:22

1500 m — 3:36

1 mile —  3:57

3000 m — 7:58

5000m — 13:36

What are your goals in the sport in the near future and beyond?

My goal in the near future is to represent my country at the world stage and my long term goals would be winning a medal at a major international competition.

My career goals are to maximize my potential and inspire others to do the same. I want the younger generation to see how far hard work and dedication takes you. My biggest aspiration would be to inspire others to break their own barriers.

How has your time spent in Oklahoma shaped your accomplishments and racing?

Being an okie has played a huge role in my running career. Ever since i started running I’ve taken pride in the uniforms I have put on (as a former OU and Oklahoma Christian athlete) and being able to represent

Oklahoma at the professional level is something that i take huge pride in. Growing up as a sooner always gives the aspiration to be the best.

What roles have your cultural heritage played in your approach to running?

Having an Ethiopian heritage is for sure another factor in the motivation behind my running. Ethiopia is a country that has accomplished a lot in long distance running. Running is almost ingrained in the culture there and the people take huge pride in it. Runners are their NBA and NFL stars. The people have lots of respect for the sport and athletes. Although I fell in love with the sport in the USA, I have always been a fan of the sport growing up. So when I started running I had high expectations for myself, and feel like that has helped me work harder!

Who do you credit for your start in the sport?

I played soccer throughout high school and my senior year our soccer coach made it a requirement to run cross country in the fall, so that was what got me in the sport. I credit my coach at U.S Grant High School (Paul Widner) and my teammates that year for believing in me and pushing me to continue running. At the same time, I didn’t understand the sport much until I got to Oklahoma Christian University. Coaches Mark Thompson(who happens to be one of the only other sub 4 minute milers from the state) and Wayne Strohman along with the team there really helped me fall in love with the sport and motivated me to go further to challenge myself. My coach at OU (Martin Smith) helped me approach running like a professional. I would have to credit all these people in the roles they have played to get me where i am today!

(Quickfire Question and Answer)

Favorite workout?

Cut down mile repeats starting at tempo pace with three minutes rest is my favorite workout. I use this workout as an indicator of where my strength is at that point in the season.

Weekly milage max and average?

Max: 90 miles per week

Avg: 75

Favorite food?

Pre workout/Race: salmon and pasta

Comfort: traditional Ethiopian food




The next Oklahoma based trials competitor is Arya Bahreini, an Edmond native who attended Edmond Santa Fe high school and then Oklahoma City University, running under former coach and OU alum Conor Holt. He was the youngest qualifier for this marathon trials held in Los Angeles earlier this spring, where he placed 38th in 2:24

Background and Highlights:

Marathon Olympic Trials Qualifier

3x NAIA marathon national champion

3x NAIA XC all american

2x NAIA indoor track 5k all american

NAIA indoor track 3k all american

3x NAIA marathon all American

NAIA outdoor track 10k all american

NAIA indoor track 5k national runnerup

3x NAIA XC team national champion

USA Junior Olympic Team

What are your goals in the sport in the near future and beyond?

- To qualify for the Olympic team for the marathon

- Run a sub 14 5K

- Run a sub 28:30 10K

- Run a sub 2:12 marathon

What are your career aspirations?

Dentist! Specifically, an Orthodontist!

How has your time spent in Oklahoma shaped your accomplishments as an athlete?

The constant support from friends, family, and coaches has had a huge impact. The tough weather conditions, such as, wind, heat, and humidity have given me that mental and physical edge over my competitors in non ideal conditions.

What role does your cultural heritage play in your training and racing?

I come from a family with good work ethics and the mentality that by working hard and staying dedicated, you can reach any goal that you set for yourself.

Who do you credit for getting you started in the sport (and further along, helping spur your accomplishment)?

My mom somehow convinced me to take up running so that i could be better conditioned for soccer. She never misses any of my races. She’s a huge part of my accomplishments in the sport.

Any other sentiment about Oklahoma and/or Iran that you care to share?

Would just like to say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the early encouragement and support of my middle school and high school coaches. They were the ones that convinced me to pursue running. I was also lucky enough to have attended Oklahoma City University, where I transformed my level of running.

(Quickfire Question and Answer)

Favorite workout?

That’s definitely a toughie, but I would have to go with 400m repeats or mile repeats.

Weekly Mileage (average vs max)?

About 90-110 miles, depending on the cycle of training. I think my max mileage in one week was 114.

Favorite food?

Favorite pre-race food is definitely spaghetti.

Best / most memorable race?

Either running at the Olympic Marathon Trials or defending my marathon national championship title for the NAIA.

Favorite Oklahoma training location?

The streets of Edmond.

The most Okie thing you have ever done?

I played corn hole a few times, still don’t know what I was doing.






The Sooner state also had some other very talented ambassadors at the Olympic Marathon and Track trials, including Scott Smith(10k and marathon) who has relocated to the state in the last few years, Johnny Crain(10k and marathon) who served as a graduate assistant at OU, and Carl Stones(steeplechase) who attended the University of Tulsa and has trained in the area for the last few years.

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