One of the nation’s most respected track & field mentors, Michael Friess is in his 24th season as head coach of the cross country and track & field programs at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2013-14.
In nine seasons of full institutional sponsorship, the Seawolf track & field teams have quickly left their mark on the Great Northwest Athletic Conference under Friess, earning four individual NCAA titles, 48 All-America awards, 70 individual conference titles, 119 all-conference honorees, and 14 league records.
In less than a decade as a full-fledged program, Friess has piloted the track & field squads to success on a national level, qualifying 79 athletes for NCAAs since 2001. A program-record 12 Seawolves competed at the Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships in 2013. In 2013 at the oudoor championships, the women’s team posted a program-best seventh-place finish, while the men’s team broke the top 10 in 2011, finishing ninth.
Since joining the GNAC in 2001, UAA’s cross country teams have combined for 23 top-three team finishes at the conference meet, 12 league titles, one NCAA champion, 25 All-Americans, 10 individual conference titles and 75 all-conference certificates. Currently, the women’s team has posted a league-record five straight titles from 2009-13, while the men’s team has registered four back-to-back titles from 2010-13.
The Seawolves have been no stranger to the NCAA Championships under Friess’ guidance, having qualified a team for the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships 18 times overall, including sending both the men’s and women’s squads in 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Friess has earned 16 conference coach-of-the-year accolades in cross country, including five straight women’s coach-of-the-year honors from 2009-13. Since 2010, Friess has swept both the men’s and women’s GNAC Coach of the Year honors. He earned his first West Region honor in the spring of 2009 for the men’s track & field team, before picking up his first women’s cross country honor in the fall of the same year. Friess went on to sweep the West Region in 2010 and 2011, claiming both the men’s and women’s Coach of the Year accolades.
Athletes have excelled in the classroom as well under Friess, earning 165 academic all-conference accolades over the last 12 seasons and 64 all-academic honors since 2005-06. Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams have combined for 14 U.S. Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic Team recognitions since 2005, while both track & field teams have made the All-Academic Team each year since 2009. Additionally, five student-athletes have been named Capital One/CoSida Academic All-Americans.
Friess graduated from Linfield (Ore.) College with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 1985 and was an NAIA All-American distance runner for the Wildcats. He earned a master’s degree in sport biomechanics from the University of Oregon in 1986.
A graduate of Anchorage’s Dimond High, Friess remains active in the local running community as a competitor, coach and organizer. Some of the events Friess organizes include the Mayor’s Marathon & Half-Marathon and the Crow Pass Crossing.
A USA Track & Field Level II coach, Friess is also a member of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and is certified by ACSM as an exercise test technologist and exercise specialist.
He and his wife Stephanie have two children, Meagan – a former Seawolf track & field athlete – and Steven.