The Student News Site of Viterbo University



The Badlands
You have the choice to see it differently and to create a perception of your choosing
Carter, Assistant Editor • April 25, 2024
Godspell Rehearsals
Viterbo to present “Godspell” starring Jesus as popstar
Braydon Schoeffling, Freelance Writer • April 25, 2024
Teaching the Holocaust Workshop brings 24th Holocaust survivor
Noah Nelson, Editor • April 25, 2024

The story behind the coaching legend Donald Fritsch

Donald Fritsch knew he wanted to be a coach when he graduated high school in 1972.  His interest in coach was in big part to the opportunity he didn’t have in high school. When he was in high school, distance running was not big in the states, so he felt like he never was able to reach his true potential. He went into UW-L to major in education with the goal of giving others an opportunity to succeed in the classroom and on the track.

Fritsch graduated from UW-L in December of 1980. He and his wife moved to Stevens Point to settle down in 1981. The same year he was able to get a coaching job at Pacelli Catholic School, where he was a head coach for the cross-country team for 10 years and for the track team for one. His coaching success at the high school level is lengthy. While he was at Pacelli, he was a 17-time state champion for boys and girls combined, winning two state titles in track and 15 in cross country. He was also awarded coach of the year four times in the WISTA conference.

After his tenure at Pacelli, he returned to UW-L in 1990 for his masters and became an assistant cross-country coach under his former head coach in college. After six years as the assistant coach the head coach stepped down, and Fritsch was promoted to head coach. He stayed as the head coach for 14 years at UW-L. He was also the head track coach for one year as well. While he was a head coach at UW-L, he was also a full-time teacher, which he said took a toll on him in those years all the way to his later years.

While he was at UW-L, he was able to find a good amount of success; as an assistant coach the cross-country team was able to secure a national title in 1996. As a head coach he was able to win national titles in 2001 and 2005 in cross country. In that 2001 season, he was named the Mondo regional and the national cross-country coach of the year. In 2005, he was once again named the national cross-country coach of the year. He was also able to win the 2008 indoor national title as head track coach.  While at UW-L, he coached 12 cross country all American, 36 indoor track and field all American, and 13 outdoor track and field all American. He also coached the second fastest distance medley relay in the history of division III track and field. He was also the only coach in UW-L history to win a cross country and track and field national title. He was inducted in the Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004.

After his 22-years at UW-L, he retired from coaching and teaching in 2012 for five years. In that time, he was still very much involved with the coaching scene. He was actively helping his alma mater’s cross-country team. He was also at Viterbo helping John with the cross-country team. Fritsch was also very involved with helping various high school teams in the La Crosse area.

In 2017, he accepted the coaching position at Viterbo. Since he has come to Viterbo, he has sent at least one athlete to the national meet in cross country every year. In 2019, he was able to send four underclass runners to the national meet, which is rare. He continued his success that year coaching an all-conference 4×8 team on the women’s side. In the 2020 season, he was able to bring home the second women’s cross country conference title and qualify the whole team and two men for the national meet. He was also awarded coach of the year.

Although Fritsch has accumulated all this success,  he continued to praise his athletes for the hard work they have put in. “The national and conference titles are all because of the athletes,” Fritsch says. Throughout the years, he has dedicated his time and effort into making sure every athlete he coaches has that opportunity he was not given in his high school years. 

Leave a Comment
Donate to Lumen

Your donation will support the student journalists of Viterbo University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Lumen

Comments (0)

All Lumen Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *