When you carry the “it” factor, there’s just nothing you can do except learn to live with it.
When your reputation precedes you, you understand that you have no control over what others think of you.
Desiree Freier reflected on a conversation she had with a fellow competitor from DeSoto at the regional track meet. The conversation started off friendly enough, and then oddly turned.
“I was just talking to, her wishing her well and asking her if she was ready to vault,” Freier said. “When she asked my name, I told her Desiree. Then she stopped, asked my last name. I told her. All she said was, ‘Oh.’ It bothers me when people see me a certain way. But I never want to see myself trying to be better.”
That crystallizes what Freier’s just-concluded magnificent high school career was like. The Justin Northwest pole vault specialist set the bar so high, she really became an ambassador for the event and for girls track in Texas.
Freier literally escalated the visibility while trying to keep a low profile. Her accomplishments became the talk of track and field. She became the first girl in Texas high school history to break 14 feet.
She also left it as the most decorated. A 13-6 performance this past weekend at the Class 5A state track and field meet in Austin proved good enough for her to claim her third consecutive and final state championship. Freier also has the national record of 14-3.25. In an event where everything technically had to right, Freier came about as close as anyone could at this level.
A pioneer? That’s probably a bit too strong of a term. A game changer? That’s probably the best way to look at her.
At 5-0, the 17-year-old Freier evolved as someone who simply delivered through her actions anything was possible. All future pole vault hopefuls had to do was put in the work.
There’s the legendary story of Larry Bird walking into a room filled with the NBA’s best shooters and asking them which of them was coming in second in the upcoming three-point shooting contest. Bird was just that good – he wound up winning that competition easily – and deep down, the others probably knew they had no chance of beating him.
Think that comparison is a reach? When Northwest track coach George Lutkenhaus said Freier cleared 13-6 on her first attempt at the state meet, he said it was over and everybody knew it. It was just a matter of by how much Freier would win.
Whenever she was at an event, there was the likelihood that every other competitor realized she had no chance of beating her unless Freier just collapsed. That never happened. She was just that much better than everyone else.
That’s what it means by having “it.”
Freier will continue her career in college at Arkansas. She chose the Razorbacks over Texas and signed in February.
What she leaves behind in Justin will be talked about in high school track circles for decades. People who will have never met her, will extend her respect. Through it all, Freier’s reaction is through appreciation and humility.
“I could say I took the event to a different level,” Freier said. “I see myself as normal but I can see where people would feel intimidated. I just wanted to be friendly and hope for everybody to [set personal records] regardless.
“I can say that I’ve done my best with high school. I leave an important legacy that anyone can be great if they put their mind to it.”