Cross-country runner takes gap semester to save eligibility

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Nathan Freyling can’t go to his coaches after he had a bad workout or run. He must run alone. It’s all in order to keep his eligibility for the fall 2021 semester.

With COVID-19 taking athletics by storm, runner Nathan Freyling chose to take a break from school to save his eligibility for fall 2021. Freyling made this decision in August, right before classes and cross-country season started.

“About halfway through the summer, I had this thought in my mind that if COVID doesn’t get better or if we’re not able to have sports, that I might just end up taking the semester off,” Freyling said. “About late July or early August, I talked to Coach Graber and [told him] I’m really leaning towards taking a semester off. I’ll train, I’m going to work more, so I can use that eligibility fall [2021].”

With no competition, athletes have been using their time to train and practice under COVID-19 restrictions. Even though Freyling isn’t training with Webster, he proved his dedication to the sport through his training schedule.

“I’ve pretty much woken up, done my run, then I would go to work and then sometimes I’d have to run again after work,” Freyling said. “Once you get in that groove and keep going, the dedication is there and it’s so easy to get up every day and keep doing it. It just becomes natural.”

While his teammates and coaches supported him, he was challenged to make his own workouts. According to Cross-country head coach Dan Graber, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) requested he didn’t help Freyling train.

“We definitely wanted to follow that advice to make sure we didn’t put him or the program in a position where we were violating the NCAA rules,” Graber said. “The thing about Nathan is that he’s super coachable and he’s a student of the sport, so it’s been cool hearing about how he’s been doing and that he’s been progressing with his running even though I’m not giving him workouts every day. That’s the ideal development for a runner.”

With his coaches and teammates behind him in his decision, Freyling has still faced challenges. While his training has proved to be successful, according to his new personal record of an 8K timed trial run, training alone has taken its toll on him.

“It’s definitely been really hard not having a coach to go to when I have bad days or bad workouts,” Freyling said. “It’s hard not having a team to fall back on as well. If you have a bad workout or just a bad run, you know, you go to your guys, and they can help keep you motivated and support you. But I don’t have that face-to-face interaction with them, and that plays a huge factor.”

Freyling was planning on coming back to Webster in spring 2021, regardless if track was competing. He is ready for January when he can be reunited with his team and coaches and is looking forward to track season and the cross-country conference championship in March 2021.

Sophomore distance runner Cameron Sakuma was one of Freyling’s biggest supporters.

“We’ve already gained another eligibility season for track, so taking that semester off is so well calculated because now he has a whole year under him where he does nothing but train,” Sakuma said. “Out of anyone on the team, I think Nathan is the most prepared for anything to come.”

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Elizabeth Gerger