School: Clovis High
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He's qualified because: At a school that coaches track and field by committee, his primary responsibility for the past four of his 29 years with the Cougars has been sprinter/horizontal jumper Jenna Prandini. While that resulted in the most accomplished career in Central Section history, it also brought with it enormous pressure. And the heat dial turned up significantly this season when Friesen had to rip up his original training blueprint for her because of a strained hamstring and draw a new one. It would prove to be golden.
Jenna Prandini's track and field season had the appearance of virtual perfection with four gold medals at the Central Section Masters Championships and another three at the CIF State finals.
But, actually, it was anything but routine; it was one mistake in preparation from never happening. And playing an integral role in bringing it all together for the Clovis High All-American was Cougars coach Greg Friesen.
"He was with me every step of the way," says Prandini, who admittedly used poor judgment and competed when she shouldn't have with a strained hamstring at the Feb. 26 Run For The Dream Indoor Track & Field Invitational at the Save Mart Center.
The hamstring was tighter than she let on to Friesen.
"I had been training since December and was anxious to get into a meet," she says. "It was just me being competitive but, looking back, it probably wasn't the best idea, it wasn't the smartest thing for me to do."
That launched a delicate and revised three-month game plan by Friesen – with daily direction from Sierra Pacific Orthopedics physical therapist Eric Little – to prepare Prandini ultimately for the June 3-4 state meet.
"Coach Friesen really, really got me ready for it," she says. "He adjusted all the workouts, never once got mad and was always there being positive, telling me I could get through it.
"I knew I could trust him, I knew he was doing what was best for me. I don't know if there was another coach in the Valley who could have worked as well with me."
Yet, for all that belief, Prandini compounded the problem a second time, and for the same reason – an itch to compete – when she ran the 100 at the April 2 West Coast Relays.
She won impressively, that didn't matter. Once again, she shouldn't have competed: "I could feel the hamstring a lot, but I didn't tell him."
She smiles now, but oh for the potential disaster that could have ensued for the Oregon-bound star.
"Frightening," Friesen says, "it really was. I knew she was going to be fine as far as her career. I knew she was going to the best track school in the nation. But I also knew what kind of competitor she is, and if she wouldn't get a chance to compete as a high school athlete again, it would have crushed her."
So: "I did have to start over."
Friesen was in daily communication with Little, whose rehabilitation program for Prandini emphasized pool and elliptical bike workouts.
Prandini says she saw Little daily, including both mornings of the state meet.
"We have to give a huge credit to Eric Little," Friesen says. "I became very dependent on him; I called him constantly. The challenge was to keep Jenna in shape without pushing the injury and allowing her to heal. Eric was very, very instrumental in her success."
As was Friesen, who now faces a grim reality – life as a coach without Jenna Prandini, even if she could be a bit deceitful.
"I was so blessed to have had this opportunity," says the 49-year-old physics and chemistry teacher. "I think about this a lot: 'Why does some guy in Clovis deserve the chance to coach one of the best athletes in the country?'
"The greatest thing about Jenna is she makes people around her so much better. I've learned so many things in how to develop her. I know I'm better than I was four years ago."