November 29, 2012

CSUC Track & Field Coach Kirk Freitas announces retirement

CHICO, Calif. – One of the most beloved coaches in the history of Chico State athletics, Men’s Track & Field Coach Kirk Freitas, announced his retirement Tuesday. Freitas steps down after 33 spectacular seasons.  

“It’s difficult to leave,” Freitas told the team on a cold, gray November afternoon in the bleachers of University Stadium. “We’re not just a team out here. We’ve been a family for the last 33 years. I’m going to miss it more than you know.”

Freitas oversaw Chico State’s men’s and women’s track & field programs from 1979 to 1998. He put his focus solely on the men’s team when Oliver Hanf became women’s head coach in 1998. The results have been astounding. The men’s track and field team has won nine consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) titles and has been ranked in the top 30 nationally each of the last 11 seasons, including four consecutive top-10 finishes from 2007 to 2010.

He’s coached 64 individual CCAA champions, 47 All-Americans, and six NCAA champions during that time.

Freitas was inducted into the Chico State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Chico Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.

“Coach Freitas is Chico State Track & Field,” said Director of Athletics Anita Barker. “He built our track program into a conference powerhouse by creating a family environment for all who participate. At the heart of this success is a man who genuinely loves teaching and coaching and lets the results speak for themselves. Throughout his tenure he has taught, trained, mentored and, most importantly, genuinely cared for the student-athletes who chose Chico State. His network of alumni, friends and colleagues know he poured his heart and soul into this program for the past 33 years. His legacy reaches beyond the student-athletes he coached to colleagues within and outside the Acker hallways. His leadership and passion for Chico State will be difficult to replace. We wish him the best as he starts this new chapter in his life.”

A national search for Freitas’ successor will take place in the spring of 2013.

He goes out on top having earned CCAA Coach of the Year honors for the ninth year in a row this spring. The capper came at the NCAA Championships where J Patrick Smith won the NCAA decathlon title and John Brunk came in fourth. Freitas won West Region Coach of the Year honors in 2007, 2010 and 2011.

“The honors and accolades are astounding,” said Hanf, who competed for Freitas before joining him as the women’s coach. “But I think Kirk would be the first to say that stuff’s all been secondary compared to the relationships he’s had with the athletes and alumni.”

“This is a tough day for me personally,” he continued. “Freitas has always been there for me first as my coach and then after we formed this partnership. We fed off each other’s strengths. I’m going to miss him daily.”

As an athlete at Chico State, the fleet-footed Freitas earned eight All-Far West Conference honors and was a member of relay teams that competed in the 1968 National Championships. His relay squads also won the Western Regional Championship in 1969, qualified for the National Championships in 1970 with a school record-setting performance in the 400-meter relay (one that still ranks fifth all-time in Wildcat history), and placed seventh at the National Championships in 1971.

Freitas earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Chico State in 1971 and his master’s degree from Chico State in 1974. The Newark High School product coached at Yuba City High School before returning to coach at Chico State in 1979.

Immediately following Freitas’ announcement Tuesday, long-time assistant coach and friend, Steve Irving, spoke.

“Freit, we appreciate you and all that you’ve done,” he said. “You’re the heart and soul of this team for more than 33 years. That won’t ever be forgotten. Thank you.”

The clapping and cheering that followed confirmed that the athletes in the bleachers, those who occupied them over the past 33 years share the sentiment.

Moments later Freitas closed the meeting by saying simply: “I think we ought to go to work.”

But it wasn’t time quite yet. First numerous coaches and student-athletes stood in line to hug him and offer words of thankfulness and encouragement. Then they did as he said. They got to work.