ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – Associate Director of Athletics for Strength and Conditioning and Head Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Michael Friess announced his retirement after 29 years at Alaska Anchorage Tuesday.
"Most coaches coach because of a built-in desire to teach, compete and win. But most coaches never get to the point of doing that consistently and successfully enough that they leave a legacy of excellence in the process,” said Greg Myford, Director of Athletics. “Our UAA Athletic program has been fortunate to have Michael -- in the role of both coach and administrator -- perform at such a level that our Seawolf Track & Field and Cross Country programs are regarded as one of the nation's finest. And the academic performance of his students is the true finish line that he focuses on each one crossing. He hasn't just coached a sport; he has built an elite program. The University of Alaska Anchorage thanks Michael for his years of service and remarkable success."
Under his tutelage, Friess has coached 15 NCAA national champions and 178 All-Americans. He has led the Seawolves to 32 GNAC team championships and coached 237 individual GNAC champions. UAA has won eight NCAA West Region titles and the women’s cross country team has finished in the top-eight at the national championships each of the last 10 years. Friess has been honored as Coach of the Year by the Pac West, GNAC and the USTFCCCA a combined 49 times.
“After nearly three decades of helping develop one of the best cross country and track programs in the entire NCAA and after careful consideration with my family and close friends I have decided to retire from UAA and pursue what other adventures that life has to offer,” Friess said.
“It has been an amazing journey, and I am so grateful for all that the university has offered me and my family. I’ve been blessed with an amazing wife, beautiful family, my fellow coaches and community friends, incredible student athletes, so many memories, and all in a place that I’ve always called home, Alaska.
“I certainly do not rule out a future return to college coaching or working with a local nonprofit as I remain passionate about collegiate cross country and track as well as being positively involved in my community, but for now I’m going to focus on other aspects of life.
“I want to spend more time with my wife Stephanie, our family and our grandchildren. Stephanie and I would love to travel more. I’ve been blessed to have had coached athletes from all over the world and it would be great to visit and experience their home countries.”
Friess started his career at UAA as head men’s cross country coach in 1990 and four years later he became the department’s strength and conditioning coach. His duties expanded in 2000 with the creation of a women’s program.
The Seawolves participated in track and field for many years before fully sponsoring outdoor track and field in 2005 and indoor track and field in 2013.
The department has inducted seven cross country/track and field student-athletes into its Hall of Fame and 12 cross country/track and field student-athletes have been named the Bill MacKay Athlete of the Year.
Academic success was a cornerstone of his programs, with seven student-athletes earning CoSIDA Academic All-American honors and over 300 GNAC All-Academic honorees. Every men’s and women’s cross country and track and field team has earned U.S. Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic Team recognition since the award’s inception.
“I know that if I was doing my job to the best of my abilities that I would always be in the tough position of leaving behind a very good team and very good coaches,” said Friess. “This is certainly the case for me now because the team and staff that are returning and the recruits we have coming in will be very good. It does provide me satisfaction knowing that the program is on a roll and positioned for even greater success in the years to come.”
He has served as the race director of several Anchorage races including the Anchorage Mayors Marathon and Half Marathon, Crow Pass Crossing, Heart Run, Tom Besh Homestead Hill Run and the Puffin Four Miler that progressed to the Multiple Sclerosis Walk and Spring Four Miler.
Friess, an Anchorage native, graduated from Linfield College with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 1985, was an NAIA All-American distance runner for the Wildcats, and was inducted into the Linfield Hall of Fame in 2018. He earned a master’s degree in sport biomechanics from the University of Oregon in 1986.