Track and field coach Owen Frasier has made it a point to recruit locally
Jane Kuebrich was finished with sports. Or so she thought.
Jasmine Bates gave up running after her junior year of high school. Or so she thought.
Nora Roscoe, Spencer Holm, and Branden Chou also have had interesting journeys to their college athletic careers.
Today, these five athletes represent a movement of sorts at Clark College, especially within the track and field and cross country programs. The new coach, Owen Frasier, is all about local.
Oh, he will reach out to athletes from all over the Northwest. But he has been making it a point to bring Clark County athletes to Clark College.
“That’s the role of community college, to provide an opportunity for people in the community. We see this as an opportunity for kids to gain experience,” Frasier said. “Being able to provide that to people in our community and their families is awesome. I grew up in this community. I went to Clark College. This institution means a lot to me.”
And now, it means a lot to a number of local athletes who either never figured on running in college, or had given up on the idea of sports in college.
Kuebrich graduated from Ridgefield High School in 2020. Her senior year of track and field was shut down during COVID. At the time, she could not afford to attend a four-year school so she enrolled at Clark College that fall. She trained with the cross country team but there was no season.
She returned the next fall and competed for the Penguins. It was a good season, but nothing special, nothing that convinced her to keep running.
By the end of the 2021-22 academic year, she was ready to move on — from Clark College and athletics. She was planning on attending Oregon Institute of Technology, to focus only on her studies.
Her heart, she said, was no longer into athletics.
Last spring, Frasier took the job as cross country coach and also set out to reestablish the track and field program. He reached out to potential returners, such as Kuebrich.
In her mind, she was already gone.
Her mind was about to be changed.
“He said, ‘Hey, I’m going to do something special. Do you want to be part of that?’ I was like, ‘Absolutely,’” Kuebrich said.
That conversation changed Kuebrich’s life.
A fantastic cross country season last fall and now a steady track and field season that concluded Tuesday at the Northwest Athletic Conference Championships, led Kuebrich, well, OIT. Only this time, she will be an athlete at OIT, an athlete who will be earning tuition assistance.
While Kuebrich changed the directory of her educational process, the Clark athletics program was making progress, too.
The Penguins went into the Northwest finals of cross county ranked fourth. They ended up finishing second.
“It was just insane. Insane,” Kuebrich said. “Nobody saw that coming from us that day.”
She credited the coaches (Kailey Sears in an assistant coach) who care so much for their athletes, for pushing her and her teammates to personal bests. She knew last fall that she was going to keep running for these coaches in track and field this spring.
“Not trying to be dramatic or anything, but it really did change the course of my life,” she said, remembering Frasier’s initial contact, asking Kuebrich to give running another shot. “I was done. Then they showed up.”
There are similar stories throughout Clark athletics.
Nora Roscoe, a Hockinson High School graduate, got talked into running cross country at Clark even though she was a sprinter. She excelled in the fall, and when Clark brought back track and field this spring, she excelled there, too. She is the second-fasted Penguin in school history in the 100 meters.
“I think it’s really awesome here. I get to live at home, which is really nice. I’m saving so much money. I didn’t know anyone coming into it but they’re all my best friends now,” Roscoe said. “The fact that we can compete at this high of a level while still saving all this money being at a community college is crazy. We compete against DI schools in our meets. There is no lack of competition. It’s basically everything that the other schools have but you get to stay at home and save a bunch of money.”
Of course, that is a major selling point for Frasier when he is on the recruiting trail.
“Practically, it makes the most sense,” Frasier said. “You get to live at home, not have to pay room and board, and pay the cheapest tuition you can possibly pay. Plus, the quality of the school.”
Then there is the athletic department. Again, track and field’s last season before this year was 2019. But there is a push to keep building, building, and building.
“We are so well supported by the school, the student body, and the athletic department,” Frasier said. “It makes it a really easy choice for kids in our community.”
This year’s women’s track and field team has 19 athletes, and 16 are from Clark County high schools. There are 14 men, and 10 come from Clark County. With his recruiting class for next academic year, Frasier expects 38 of a total of 48 track and field athletes will be from the county.
Laura LeMasters, the athletic director of Clark College, appreciates what Frasier is accomplishing.
“Student experience is a top priority for me and our department. Recruiting locally helps that experience by keeping costs down for students as well as providing an atmosphere at our events that gives us a ‘home court/field’ advantage,” LeMasters said. “That comes from having local ties of family and friends coming out to support our student-athletes.”
There are 11 sports at Clark College. Some sports have only one or two Clark County athletes, while others have more. Look for those numbers to rise in the near future.
“Since returning from our covid hiatus, culture is at the forefront of what we are trying to create here at Clark,” LeMasters said. “We want competitive teams that represent our community and to create an event that the community wants to support.”
Spencer Holm, a 2021 graduate of La Center High School, loves representing Clark College because he has met a lot of people that he used to face in competition.
“It’s a blast. ‘I raced against you for four years, and now we’re on the same team,’” Holm said. “That’s cool.”
Holm’s health slowed him down right after high school. He suffered from a collapsed lung in January of 2022 and again that spring. He had surgery and thought he was good to go, but then suffered two collapsed lungs this past fall during cross country season.
“I was losing hope in running,” Holm said.
But not all hope. He recovered from another surgery, then got in great shape over the winter.
“I started getting back into my groove,” he said.
Branden Chou, a Mountain View graduate, had told himself he was done with sports after high school. He was planning on attending Clark College, but he was not going to run in college.
Then he saw what Frasier and Sears were doing with the cross country team in the fall. He figured if they could bring that passion to track and field, maybe, just maybe Chou could make a comeback of his own.
“I gave (Frasier) a call and told him I was ready to run again,” Chou said.
“This has been, by far, the best team I’ve ever been on,” Chou said. “It feels like part of a family. After practice, we’re all together.”
Another Mountain View graduate is another success story for Frasier and his recruiting style.
Jasmine Bates, also a soccer standout, gave up running track and field after her junior year of high school.
“I wasn’t really enjoying it that much,” she recalled.
Frasier knew Bates was coming to Clark College, so he figured he would ask if she would consider track and field in the spring.
“I wasn’t really sure, but he ended up convincing me, and I’m really happy he convinced me,” Bates said.
“Being close to home is super convenient,” she said of her decision to go to Clark College. “I really like this team and the people who are here. And Frasier does a great job with team bonding.”
Bates will have decisions to make when she goes to a four-year college. Thanks to Fraiser’s call.
“Going back into running just opened all these doors for me,” she said. “I really enjoy running right now. He kind of brought back my passion for running again.”
Opportunities for athletes at Clark College. That is Frasier’s mission.
NWAC Championship Notes: Jasmine Bates won the 800-meter championship this week and earned All-American status in the 1,500, taking second place. … Nora Roscoe finished second in the 100 and got All-American status in the 400 relay when she and her teammates finished second. … Branden Chou got All-American status finishing second in the 800. … Jane Kuebrich earned All-American status finishing third in the 10,000. … Spencer Holm got all conference finishing fourth in the 1,500 and seventh in the 800. … Brianna Morrell, a Prairie graduate, won the 400 championship. … The Clark women’s team tied for third place.
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