Distance running teen returning to Mountainback | News, Sports, Jobs


STATE COLLEGE — While many teen runners in Pennsylvania are busy training for track events or a 5K distance, there’s one who revels in 50 miles – or more – and has her eyes set on Central PA’s Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon coming up next month .

With race day set for Oct. 16 this year, the Mountainback is well known for its team relay and ultramarathon events that cover 50 miles of scenic roads in Rothrock State Forest.

Now a senior at Conemaugh Township High School, Kaylee Frederick is no stranger to the Mountainback. She ran the 50-mile event in 2020 as a 15-year-old, then again in 2021.

Frederick’s high school sports at that time, you may ask? Not cross country, but soccer. In her return run of the Mountainback’s 50-mile course last year, she lopped 44 minutes off her already impressive time.

This fall, besides her coursework at Conemaugh, she is active with both cross country and soccer.

For Frederick, the joy of running and the chance to meet and make friends are a winning combination.

“I look forward to running the Tussey Mountainback every year,” said Frederick. “The community and camaraderie at Tussey are outstanding. Seeing familiar faces of runners and meeting up with old friends is always exciting.”

Aid stations are a vital oasis for any distance runner. And Frederick views the 50-mile route’s 11 aid stations that serve the ultramarathoners as a cause to celebrate.

“Getting to every aid station is so powerful and energizing at any race, especially at Tussey,” said Frederick. “The volunteers are amazing, and I know I can always look forward to arriving at every aid station.”

Frederick was drawn to running early, at age 7.

“My mom started running, and I joined her.” In the next several years, Frederick took part in numerous 5Ks and 10Ks. “When I was 13, my elementary school music teacher asked me to run a half marathon with her,” Frederick recalled. “My exact thoughts were, ‘I can’t do that. Only the elite runners can run half marathons.’ I legitimately believed that only the best of the best athletes ran halves and fulls, and I didn’t even know ultras existed.”

As it turned out, that race, in which she alternated running and walking, was a turning point for Frederick.

“Running that half at age 13 changed my life. My eyes were opened to a world of possibility. If I could run a half marathon, I could run a full marathon.”

In fact, individual people seem to have been the magic that unlocked her personal experience of running. A friend from the Johnstown Running Club helped Frederick find a marathon without an age limit.

“She then told me after that race that an ultramarathon (50K) was only 5 miles more. I then ran my first 50K, and of course, a 50 miler followed.”

At age 14, she ran her first marathon, 50K and 50 miler. Her friend was seen to run her first 100 miler and asked Frederick to crew and pace her.

“So, of course I agreed,” said Frederick. “As I saw and spoke with other runners at the 100, I knew I was next. I knew I had to run one. I ran my first 100 miler when I was 16 and another when I was 17.”

This fed Frederick’s personal appetite for a good challenge.

“I constantly have a calling to go farther and be better. If other people have run it, so can I. What’s stopping me? The only answer to that question is myself, and that’s not an excuse.”

Frederick ran the gnarly 70-mile single-track Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail on Sept. 4.

Although she’s completed numerous serious races at such a young age, in Frederick’s view, her running career is just beginning. She’s registered for a 200-mile race that starts on September 29.

“There are a few key things that keep inspiring me to keep going,” said Frederick. “One, I hope to inspire someone one day. I hope someone will see what I’ve done and realize that they can do it, too. And two, I want to make my father proud one day.”

Frederick’s father passed away when she was 6 years old. “By doing these big things and being the best I possibly can, I hope that he’ll see me, wherever he may be, and be proud that I’m his daughter.”

At Conemaugh Township High School, Frederick is a captain of the girls varsity soccer team, where she plays defense, in addition to working the demands of cross country into her schedule.

After a hiatus from running, Frederick’s mom is busy running these days, too.

“My mom got back into running when I asked her to run the 200 miler with us.”

How does Frederick train for long distance events while balancing her academic, team sports and personal life?

“In previous years I didn’t have much time to focus on training,” said Frederick, “and I still don’t do sports, school, and just life in general, but I’ve prioritized it more than I used to. I know if I want to start performing well, I need to focus on training more.”

Now that she’s been around the block a bit into her young racing career, one might wonder how the Mountainback measures up.

“Tussey is truly my favorite race,” said Frederick. And her own passion for the Mountainback race seems to be rubbing off on others, too.

“I’ve got a lot of people considering signing up,” said Frederick. “My mom is running the race this year, which is great, considering she’s crewed for me the past two years, so she knows the course well.”

Proceeds from the 2022 Mountainback event support the Dyslexia Reading Center of Central PA, which helps local youth and adult clients to triumph over this challenging disability. For more information about the Dyslexia Reading Center, visit https://dyslexiareadingcenter.org/.

Details about the Mountainback race and registration information are available at www.tusseymountainback.com. To learn about volunteer opportunities, send an email to volunteer@tusseymountainback.com.

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