Dalia Frias: State Girls Athlete of Year

State Athlete of the Year Dalia Frias of Mira Costa sets national record at Brooks PR Invitational on June 22 in Seattle. Photo: Kirby Lee / Image of Sport.


She didn’t win a CIF state track title, but everything else from an all-time record-breaking standpoint for runner Dalia Frias from Mira Costa High of Manhattan Beach was so great that it has carried her to the selection of State Girls Athlete of the Year for 2021-22 school year. The last State Girls Athlete of the Year from Mira Costa is a current Olympic gold medal winner in beach volleyball.

For a look at all of the other girls from the 2021-22 school year to be selected as a winner from each category plus lists of other top overall athletes, CLICK HERE.

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When it comes to the athletic history of Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach, Dalia Frias knows that for all the great competitors who have represented the Mustangs since the school opened in 1950, there is one individual who stands head and shoulders above the rest – literally.

Alix Klineman, a 2007 Mira Costa graduate and reigning Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball with her partner April Ross, still remains a towering presence on campus, especially with the 6-foot-5 AVP Tour star being honored in the Hall of Fame section of the school’s new $39 million athletic complex, which opened last year and includes a gymnasium that seats 2,500.

Frias, who stands 5-6, became a giant in her own right during her Mira Costa career, especially throughout a senior year that included a California Division 2 state cross country title – also leading the Mustangs to their first team championship in program history – along with several record-breaking track performances.

The Duke-bound Frias, who already achieved the California all-time mark in the mile March 26 by clocking 4 minutes, 35.06 seconds at the Azusa Distance Meet of Champions, saved her best for last by producing the national high school outdoor record in the 2-mile with her 9:50.70 effort to win her final prep race June 15 at the Brooks PR Invitational in Washington.

Dalia Frias of Mira Costa poses after winning the girls two miles at Brooks PR Invitational. Photo: Kirby Lee / Image of Sport.


The memorable achievement helped solidify Frias’ status as one of the elite distance runners in California history and secured her recognition as the Cal-Hi Sports State Girls Athlete of the Year, joining Klineman, the 2006-07 honoree. The Mustangs also had the 2015-16 winner for D2, who was CIF state golf champion Andrea Lee.

“Oh my gosh, that’s crazy. I’m so honored, this means the world to me,” Frias said upon learning of her selection. “Just to be one of those people who is going to be recognized like all of those other athletes are, including Alix, it means a lot. I think Costa does value all their athletes and just to be another one in the record books means a lot and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.”

Although Frias follows Westlake Village Westlake pole vaulter Paige Sommers, last year’s winner, along with fellow track and field standouts Tara Davis of Agoura Hills Agoura in 2016-17 and Elena Bruckner of San Jose Valley Christian in 2015-16 in earning the state’s top female honor, she becomes the first distance runner to receive the highest recognition since two-time recipient Jordan Hasay of San Luis Obispo Mission Prep in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

“I’m so proud. I feel like since my freshman year, it’s been a goal of mine to get the word out more about track. Being part of such an amazing community and being able to spread the love for the sport and everything about it, that means so much to represent it,” said Frias, who also joins 1973-74 honoree Mary Decker of Orange among the elite female distance runners selected as state athlete of the year.

“To have my name up there with some other amazing athletes and to be one of the few distance runners to get this award, it means everything to bring some more recognition to it and to show the world how powerful running can be.”

Frias will also join Sommers at Duke this fall, following a unique trend of former Cal-Hi Sports honorees becoming teammates. Davis and Bruckner spent their final collegiate season together last year at Texas.

“I think it’s pretty awesome. It really just shows how Duke is really trying to build a pretty strong community right now in the track and field world,” Frias said. “I couldn’t be more excited to be teammates with her and a whole world of new athletes that are going to be pushing me and inspiring me for the next four or five years. It’s really amazing to share this with her.”

Frias also shared the spotlight in several track and cross country races with Cal-Hi Sports Girls Freshman Athlete of the Year Sadie Engelhardt of Ventura High.

After Engelhardt prevailed by a 15:59.9 to 16:01.1 margin in their first 3-mile cross country showdown of the year at the Cool Breeze Invitational in Pasadena, Frias won the remaining three head-to-head matchups during the fall at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic, in addition to capturing Division 2 titles at both the CIF-Southern Section finals and state championship meet in November.

“I always love racing against Dalia, because she brings out the best in me and everyone else she competes against,” Engelhardt said. “It’s great to have someone like her pushing you every step of the way. I know I wouldn’t have been able to run as well as I did in cross country without her there. She’s so strong and she really helped motivate me to be better, especially in track.”

Frias ran the fastest girls high school 3-mile cross country performance of the year with her 15:43.5 effort in September to win the Woodbridge sweepstakes race at the SilverLakes Sports Complex in Norco, defeating Engelhardt and eventual Eastbay national champion Natalie Cook of Lewisville Flower Mound in Texas.

“That was a breakthrough race for me. I didn’t really know where my fitness was at and I was still building up and feeling strong. It could have gone either way, but I ran a really good race and broke the course record,” Frias said. “That was a moment where I was like, ‘Oh wow, this season is going to be something for the books. I’m already early into the season doing that, so I knew state would be really exciting, and I was even more excited for track coming up, just to see how much more I could push those limits.”

State Girls Athlete of the Year Dalia Frias from Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach competes last fall at the Mt. SAC cross country invite. Photo: Chuck Utash.


Frias triumphed by a 16:52.0 to 16:58.7 margin against Engelhardt on the 5-kilometer Woodward Park course in Fresno at the Division 2 state final, leading Mira Costa to an 86-123 victory over Anaheim Canyon to capture the first girls cross country team championship in program history under veteran coach Renee Williams-Smith.

Frias followed by securing a fifth-place finish in December at the Garmin RunningLane Championships in Alabama, achieving the fastest 5-kilometer cross country performance ever achieved by a California female runner by running 16:37.2 to help the Mustangs take 17th overall out of 31 teams in the national showcase.

“It was really validating. Having my team there and Renee there, and really racing for the team as well as myself at nationals, it just felt amazing,” said Frias, who previously placed 32nd at the 2019 Foot Locker championship meet in San Diego. “I was able to hold on to that front pack, which was a change from Foot Locker. I felt so good after that race and was really excited for what was to come.”

Frias wasted little time showcasing her fitness on the track, eclipsing the 10-minute barrier in the 3,200 meters for the first time March 2 in a weekday tri-meet by clocking 9:59.94. She would later lower the mark to 9:55.50 to dominate a national field assembled April 9 at the Arcadia Invitational.

But it was her first opportunity during the spring to race Engelhardt where Frias ascended to another level in California prep history, rallying in the final 200 meters at Azusa Pacific University to win in 4:35.06, breaking the 1982 state mile record of 4:35.24 established by Polly Plumer of Irvine University.

“Freshman year Dalia would have never expected that senior year Dalia would be breaking California records and running sub-4:40, that’s insane to me,” Frias said. “Going into the season, I knew that it was going to be good, but I didn’t think 4:35 good, to be honest. When that race happened, that was a huge shock to me and it made me proud.

“I knew that I’ve always had that fast turnover, but never to that level. I’ve always seen myself as more of a distance runner, but now I can probably say otherwise. I can get in the races with that fast speed in the 800 and the mile and it’s really nice to have that variety under my belt, especially going into college and feeling pretty secure with what I’ve got, and I couldn’t be more grateful with how my training has lined up to get me there.”

With Frias focusing on the 3,200 at Arcadia, Engelhardt pursued another fast mile and ran 4:35.16, with her 1,600-meter split of 4:33.29 recognized as the fastest in state history. Frias achieved a 1,600 split of 4:33.54 en route to her record mile performance in March.

Engelhardt prevailed in their final 1,600 matchup May 28 at the CIF State Track and Field Championships, edging Frias 4:36.67 to 4:37.09 at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Clovis Buchanan High to capture the title in another classic showdown involving the individuals selected as Gatorade California cross country and track athletes of the year.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to have Sadie come into these races, and thank God I was able to have her for a year, and luckily my senior year, because that was the year I really needed someone to push me. Just having her there, every time I knew she was going to be in my race, I knew it was going to be a really excellent and fast race, and it would always get me pretty excited,” Frias said. “I know a lot of people probably saw us as rivals, but honestly I saw it more as friendly competition and we really just loved to push each other on the track. We both knew that we wanted to run fast times, so with each other there, we were really able to dig deep and push each lap. Each race was pretty good with her in it.”

With Frias unable to compete in the 3,200 during the California postseason caused by a clerking issue at the CIF-Southern Section prelims that resulted in a late check-in at Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills High, she decided to compete in the 2-mile race at the Brooks PR Invitational, before shifting her focus toward summer training prior to her first college cross country season at Duke.

Frias punctuated her prep career in memorable fashion, holding off Irene Riggs of Morgantown High in West Virginia by a 9:50.70 to 9:50.72 margin, as both athletes ran faster than the previous all-time national outdoor 2-mile mark of 9:51.35 achieved in 2017 by Brie Oakley of Grandview High in Colorado.

“Sadly, I wasn’t able to race the 3,200 in the postseason, so I really wanted to get it in one last time, and so I decided to do it at (Brooks PR), and it’s probably the best decision I could have made,” Frias said. “I just put everything out there and really wanted to come back with the win. I really wasn’t even thinking about a national record until it happened. That was really exciting and I’m so proud with the decisions that I made and how the race went.

Dalia poses with some of her Mustang teammates after they had a strong showing at a meet in Portland. Photo: lavistamchs.com.


“I knew after that (Arcadia) race and going into Brooks that if I have people there pushing me, that I am going to be able to pull off a time faster than what I ran at Arcadia.”

Williams-Smith, who has coached multiple state champions and Nike Cross Nationals qualifiers at Mira Costa, gave Frias the necessary confidence to excel in another elite field, despite her not running a 3,200 or 2-mile race for more than a month before traveling to Seattle.

“I knew it was going to be fast for sure, I just didn’t know how fast. Apparently my coach knew. She was pretty positive I could run right around 9:50, so that was cool that she kind of called it,” Frias said. “She always knows my capabilities, even before I know, which is pretty crazy to me.”

Along with the support of her family and teammates, Frias credits the guidance and leadership of Williams-Smith since her freshman year to allow her to develop into one of the top distance runners in state history.

“She has been by my side since freshman year and she saw it first before anyone else. She knew that I had the talent, even before I did. Just having her alongside pushing me past the limits I thought I could get to, it just means so much, and she’s really allowed my talent to grow as an athlete and I’ve become so much stronger because of her,” Frias said. “Honestly, I don’t know how good of an athlete I would be if she weren’t my coach because she’s really been able to test my strengths and see things in me that I haven’t seen. Each little milestone on my own has been an amazing accomplishment, but it’s even better having Renee there with me, accepting it with me, and watching me achieve all these amazing titles and breaking national records, it’s been incredible, and I couldn’t be any luckier to have such an amazing coach and I am so glad to have her with me.”

Frias, who also ran 2:09.88 in the 800 in April at the Trabuco Hills Invitational, holds Mira Costa all -time marks in seven track events, along with numerous 3-mile and 5-kilometer course records in cross country.

But just like 2016 Division 2 state cross country champion Melia Chittenden motivated Frias in her pursuit of greatness at Mira Costa, she wants to inspire future Mustangs’ distance runners to chase her records and be able to stand tall among the school’s athletic legends, just like Klineman did 15 years ago.

“I really just like to stay humble and true to myself, and I love to keep inspiring the future generations of people who will go through the school behind me,” Frias said. “Once you see that these athletes are breaking these certain records and running these times, it makes it seem more achievable. To have those on the (Mira Costa record board) means so much because it shows that it is possible to get under those times and break those records and hopefully it inspires the future athletes to come.”

ALL-TIME CAL-HI SPORTS
STATE GIRLS ATHLETES OF THE YEAR

(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)

Paige Sommers goes over the bar for Westlake in 2020. Photo: @WestlakeXCTF / Twitter.


2021-22 – Dalia Frias, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (track, cross country)
2020-21 – Paige Sommers, Westlake Village Westlake (track, pole vault)
2019-20 – Sarah Willis, Norco (basketball, softball)
2018-19 – Haley Jones, San Jose Archbishop Mitty (basketball)
2017-18 – Gracie Figueroa, Selma (wrestling)
2016-17 – Tara Davis, Agoura Hills Agoura (track)
2015-16 – Elena Bruckner, San Jose Valley Christian (track, volleyball)
2014-15 – Abbey Weitzeil, Saugus (swimming)
2013-14 – Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo Aliso Niguel (gymnastics)
2012-13 – Chelsea Chenault, Concord Carondelet (swimming)
2011-12 – Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo Aliso Niguel (gymnastics)
2010-11 – Maggie Steffens, Danville Monte Vista (water polo)
2009-10 – Ashton Purvis, Oakland St. Elizabeth (track)
2008-09 – Jordan Hasay, San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (track)
2007-08 – Jordan Hasay, San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (track) Jr.
2006-07 – Alix Klineman, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (volleyball)
2005-06 – Jayne Appel, Concord Carondelet (water polo, basketball)
2004-05 – Jessica Hardy, Long Beach Wilson (swimming)
2003-04 – Candice Wiggins, La Jolla Country Day (volleyball, basketball)
2002-03 – Alyson Felix, North Hills L.A. Baptist (track)
2001-02 – Julia Pitts, Torrance North (volleyball, basketball, track)
2000-01 – Lashinda Demus, Long Beach Wilson (track)
1999-00 – Monique Henderson, San Diego Morse (track) Jr.
1998-99 – Rometra Craig, San Jose Mitty (basketball, tae kwon do, track) Jr.
1997-98 – Amanda Freed, Garden Grove Pacifica (volleyball, soccer, baseball)
1996-97 – Tayyiba Haneef, Laguna Hills (volleyball, basketball, track)
1995-96 – Kerri Walsh, San Jose Mitty (volleyball, basketball)
1994-95 – Marcy Crouch, Huntington Beach Marina (soccer, softball)
1993-94 – Suzy Powell, Modesto Downey (basketball, track)
1992-93 – Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks (basketball, track)
1991-92 – Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks (basketball, track) Jr.
1990-91 – Marion Jones, Oxnard Rio Mesa (basketball, track) Soph.
1989-90 – Lisa Leslie, Inglewood Morningside (basketball, track)
1988-89 – Janet Evans, Placentia El Dorado (swimming)
1987-88 – Janet Evans, Placentia El Dorado (swimming) Jr.
1986-87 – Michele Granger, Placentia Valencia (softball)
1985-86 – Terri Mann, San Diego Point Loma (basketball, track)
1984-85 – Elaina Oden, Irvine (volleyball, track)
1983-84 – Wendy Brown, Woodside (basketball, track)
1982-83 – Wendy Wyland, Mission Viejo (diving)
1981-82 – Denean Howard, Granada Hills Kennedy (track)
1980-81 – Cheryl Miller, Riverside Polytechnic (basketball)
1979-80 – Sherri Howard, Granada Hills Kennedy (track)
1978-79 – Cynthia Woodhead, Riverside Polytechnic (swimming)
1977-78 – Tracy Austin, Rolling Hills (tennis)
1976-77 – Linda Fratianne, Van Nuys Valley Professional (figure skating)
1975-76 – Jill Sterkel, Hacienda Heights Wilson (swimming)
1974-75 – Barbara Reinalda, Cerritos Valley Christian (basketball, softball)
1973-74 – Mary Decker, Orange (track)
1972-73 – Keena Rothhammer, Santa Clara (swimming)
1971-72 – Mable Fergerson, Pomona Ganesha (track)
1970-71 – Laura Baugh, Long Beach Wilson (golf)
1969-70 – Cathy Rigby, Los Alamitos (gymnastics)
1968-69 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1967-68 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1966-67 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1965-66 – Charlotte Cooke, Compton (track)
1964-65 – Peggy Fleming, Pasadena (figure skating)
1963-64 – Sharon Stouder, Glendora (swimming)
1962-63 – Donna de Varona, Santa Clara (swimming)
1961-62 – Carolyn House, Los Angeles Marshall (swimming)
1960-61 – Billie Jean King, Long Beach Poly (tennis)*
1959-60 – Chris von Saltza, Los Gatos (swimming)
1958-59 – Karen Hantze, San Diego Mission Bay (tennis)
1957-58 – Sylvia Ruuska, Berkeley (swimming)
1956-57 – Barbara Ann Roles, Arcadia (figure skating)
1955-56 – Mimi Arnold, Redwood City Sequoia (tennis)
1954-55 – Mimi Arnold, Redwood City Sequoia (tennis)
1953-54 – Carol Tait, Atherton Menlo-Atherton (swimming)
1952-53 – Barbara Stark, Lafayette Acalanes (swimming)
1951-52 – Paula Jean Myers, Covina (diving)
1950-51 – Maureen Connolly, San Diego Cathedral (tennis)
1949-50 – Maureen Connolly, San Diego Cathedral (tennis)
1948-49 – Marlene Bauer, L.A. unknown (golf)
1947-48 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1946-47 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1945-46 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1944-45 – Nancy Chaffee, Ventura (tennis)
1943-44 – Jean Doyle, San Diego Point Loma (tennis)
1942-43 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1941-42 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1940-41 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1939-40 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1938-39 – Esther Williams, L.A. Washington (swimming)
1937-38 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1936-37 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1935-36 – Peggy Graham, Beverly Hills (golf)
1934-35 – Margaret Osborne, S.F. Commerce (tennis)
1933-34 – Florence Chadwick, San Diego Hoover (rough water swimming)
1932-33 – Dorothy Poynton, L.A. Fairfax (diving)
1931-32 – Evelyn Furtsch, Tustin (track)
1930-31 – Alice Marble, S.F. Polytechnic (tennis)
1929-30 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1928-29 – Gloria Russell, Berkeley (track)
1927-28 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1926-27 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1925-26 – Helen Jacobs, Berkeley Miss Anna Head’s School (tennis)
1924-25 – Eleanor Garatti, San Rafael (swimming)
1923-24 – Helen Jacobs, Berkeley (tennis)
1922-23 – Helen Wills, Berkeley Miss Anna Head’s School (tennis)
1921-22 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)
1920-21 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)
1919-20 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)
*Known as Billie Jean Moffitt while in high school.

Note: All selections prior to 1978-79 done retroactively through research by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis.

Erik Boal has covered high school sports in California for 25 years, formerly serving as editor at the Glendale News-Press and Los Angeles Daily News. He is currently the editor for DyeStat.com and RunnerSpace.com, which focus on track and field, cross country and road racing, but has been a regular attendee at major Southern California high school sports events since the early 2000s.


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