Photo by Isabel Thalken/Nebraska Communications

Running In The Family

By Brian Rosenthal

Erika Freyhof, the second oldest of five Freyhof siblings from Hamilton, Michigan, decided her junior year of high school she wanted to run on the Nebraska cross country team.

Recalling the story earlier this week, Freyhof, seated at a table, then turned to her older brother, by one year, and she smiled.

“And then he decided to go here too,” she said, lightheartedly.

Truth be told, Erika is perfectly fine that Mark Freyhof stole her thunder when he headed to Lincoln first to run cross country.

“Honestly, I was so upset he was gone, because we had run together and done workouts and really connected with the running portion,” said Erika, a sophomore who’s majoring in nutrition and dietetics. “That confirmed I wanted to come here. I looked at other schools, but it was somewhat of an easy decision to come here.”

So guess what? Their sister, Audrey Freyhof, followed suit a year later.

 “I always wanted to run in college when I was in high school, but I didn’t know if it would be possible,” said Audrey, a true freshman majoring in nutrition exercise and health science.

She wasn’t certain it would happen, though, because she suffered a stress fracture her junior year and, well, her times weren’t the greatest.

“I was talking with (Nebraska) coach (David Harris) about it, and he kind of knew where I had been,” Audrey said, “and said to just give it a shot to go forward to keep learning and growing and contribute to the team in anyway.”

Three years. Three Freyhofs.

Three times the fun running for the Huskers.

Mark, a redshirted sophomore, decided on Nebraska because of its excellent ag engineering program, and because of the city of Lincoln and the entire college atmosphere.

Entering Sunday’s Big Ten Championships at Mahoney Golf Course, Mark has placed in the top five twice this season and in the top 10 once, and he’s been one of the top two finishers for the Huskers in all four meets he has competed in this year.

That’s a big improvement from his first year, when he suffered a stress fracture and redshirted, and fought through another injury last season.

“I had to learn how to overcome that and stay in shape,” Mark said. “This year I’m looking to improve and get up there in the Big Ten. I’m looking forward to being able to actually compete the best I can this year.”

The Mahoney course is new for Nebraska, which has traditionally run at Pioneers Park. Only twice before Sunday’s meet had the Freyhofs navigated the course.

“They both have their challenges, I guess,” Mark said of comparing Pioneers to Mahoney. “This course, the finish goes uphill, which is pretty unique. And there are rolling hills throughout. The footing is a lot nicer.”

Erika (above) is coming off the best race of her career, running a personal best time of 21:17.9 at the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals on October 13. She has led the team this season in three of the four meets she has ran in, and was the second Husker to cross the finish line in the other race. Audrey, meanwhile, has run in four meets this season, with her best finish 83rd at the Greeno/Dirksen Invite.

Because she’s a freshman, Audrey lives on campus, while Erika and Mark share a residence.

“I’ve had room to grow and find my own areas,” Audrey said, “but also they’re my best friends, too.”

Mark agreed about the sibling connection.

“We’re able to spread out and not be on top of each other,” he said, “But if we want to get together or whatever, it’s definitely very easy.”

Erika said the three are different in their own ways, each excelling in different areas.

Oh, yeah, there two more boys, an eighth grader and a junior. Whether we see four Freyhofs at once in Lincoln remains to be seen, but it's possible, And if it should happen, Erika is perfectly fine with another sibling.

“You relationship with your siblings changes as you get older," Erika said. "Honestly, it’s more fun. We don’t have our parents around. Our relationship has gotten stronger because it’s different.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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