Justin Frick, a 10th grade English teacher at Allentown High School, will be leaving his three-year position to renew his quest for a spot on the U.S. Olympic track and field team in the high jump at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I’ve been training for a couple of years now and it’s going well, but it’s tough to balance working full time and training three to four hours a day,” Frick said. “I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity in this career at Allentown. I’m forced to focus on what it is I’m doing. I have to take it very seriously.”
Frick will be competing for a spot July 1-10 in Eugene, Oregon. He competed there in the 2012 trials, finishing fifth in a personal best of 7-4½ (2.25 meters). The top three jumpers qualify. The Olympic standard was 7-7 (2.31 meters) that year but is lowered to 7-5½ (2.29 meters) for 2016. He has consistently come close to 7-4½ but is looking to reach the extra inch needed when his training accelerates.
“I’ve done a lot of research in the event and proper training techniques,” Frick said.
Frick won the high jump in the NJSIAA Outdoor Meet of Champions as a junior in 2005 while at Freehold High School with a jump of 6-10 and was second indoors at 6- 8. In his senior year, he was third in both seasons, clearing 6-6 outdoors and 6-2 indoors. Frick went on to compete at Princeton University, where he also competed in the long jump, hurdles and heptathlon under head coach Fred Samara, who still works with Frick along with Lenape High School trainer Mike Pascuzzo.
An All-American in the high jump, Frick was a four-time heptagonal champion in the event and qualified for the NCAAs six times in his career. He competed in the championships four times, once indoors where he had his best performance. Frick placed ninth to earn All-America honors with a height of 2.09 meters (6-10¼). At the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Frick was 11th with a mark of 2.14 (7¼) and in 2010, he was 16th at 2.10 (6-10¾). He also competed in the NCAA Outdoor Championships as a sophomore.
It was during his sophomore year that Frick was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association Mid-Atlantic Field Athlete of the Year. The following outdoor season, he was the East Region champion in the high jump. He ranks fourth all-time in the outdoor high jump at Princeton at 2.20 (7-2½) and placed third indoors with the same mark. Frick returned to his Princeton alma mater as a volunteer assistant coach for the men’s track and field team in 2012, working with weight training and conditioning.
A graduate of Princeton in 2010, Frick’s degree work concentrated on film studies and post-modern English. He went on to the University of Oregon, where he pursued a master’s degree in teaching and training and returned to New Jersey to teach for one year in the Princeton Elementary Schools system before landing his position at Allentown three years ago. He teaches European literature and poetry, which he said he especially enjoys teaching.
While at the University of Oregon, he used his final year of eligibility to clear 2.23 meters (7-3¾), the third-best mark in school history. He also qualified for the NCAA Championships and finished 19th at 2.10 (6-10¾).
For now, most of Frick’s training involves running, including on hills, plyometrics and weight room conditioning, and he will concentrate on high jumping after he leaves his teaching position at the end of January.
But Frick’s training differs from four years ago when he trained alongside twotime Olympian Jesse Williams, the 2011 World Champion.
“He’s a great high jumper and a great guy, a great person,” Frick said of Williams, who had made the American team for the second time. “This is not like when you’re working with world champions, so it’s a little tough working alone.”
Frick said he endured some minor injuries around that time that encouraged him to step away from training and from pursuing corporate sponsorship as a professional competitor. He went into his main career interest of teaching English after that until rekindling his goal of competing in the Olympics.
His style is the Fosbury Flop first introduced by Dick Fosbury 50 years ago that has been the standard technique for virtually all high jumpers — clearing the bar backward — that replaced the roll-over technique and scissor jump.
“Some [high jumpers] have a natural spring and some rely on being fast, and I fall in between,” Frick said. “I use strength, speed and a lot of attention to technique.”
Frick said he looks to compete in meets this spring in Germany and in Croatia before the Olympic trials. He said he also plans to compete in international meets, even if he doesn’t qualify for the U.S. Olympic team.