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Mira Costa Track Star Continues Record-Smashing Streak

May 11, 2021 09:26AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Photo via Dalia Frias

A Mira Costa High School runner has broken three school records in three weeks, including one track record that has stood in Manhattan Beach for 37 years.

Track star Dalia Frias, who is currently ranked 2nd in California and 10th in the nation, has been running at a speed that her coach Renee Smith has called "otherworldly."

Frias is enjoying the ride, for now, and told DigMB she is proud to continue a tradition of ground-breaking runners at the high school.

"It feels great," said Frias, "and it’s definitely an honor to have such a strong legacy of women runners behind me at Costa."

Three Records Broken in Succession

Frias began her record-breaking streak three weeks ago by running 4:48.75  in the 1600 meters (mile) event, which broke a school record from 2000 held by Lynn Dixon at 4:50:05.

The following week, Frias ran 2:10.44 in the 800 meters. In that race, she broke a school record of 2:16.10 that was set by Laura Cattivera in 1984. (Breaking a 37-year-old record in a "sprint" event by nearly six seconds is practically unheard of.)

Then on Saturday, at the Arcadia Invitational, Frias set a new school record in the 3200 meter (2-mile) event with a time of 10:15.61. With this run, she broke the school record that was set by Melia Chittenden in 2017 at 10:19.65. (Melia’s younger sister Anna is currently a sophomore on the team.)

Frias said that the pandemic has given her new focus with her running. The pandemic robbed the track team of its spring competitions last year, and the cross-country season was cut down to only four races. Nevertheless, Frias continued training, with her eyes on coming back even stronger when the pandemic was over. 

Then, when the track season finally opened up in spring 2021, Frias was ready to give it her all.

"After a year off, I just wanted to put everything I had onto the track," she said.

Throughout the spring season, Frias said, there has also been a lingering uncertainty about whether the meets would be allowed to continue if another COVID-19 spike happened to come along.

"I had the feeling of, 'Who knows if you’re even going to have another race?' so I knew I needed to put it all out there," said Frias.

Mira Costa track coach Renee Smith said that Frias is one of the fastest runners she's seen, with an incredible range and at times "otherworldy" speed. Breaking records in both sprints and longer races requires a rare combination of speed and endurance. 

Frias is also the number one runner on the cross country team, noted Smith. "She was often so far ahead of everyone that it looked like she was running a different race."

From Ice Hockey to Running

Before high school, Frias had been an ice hockey player for several years, but by the end of middle school, she had "fallen out of love" with the sport. She decided she needed a new sport for high school, but she wasn't sure what to choose. But she remembered having fun with her friends in middle school PE, trying to break speed records with friends of hers. So at Costa, she went out for the cross country team.

"I tried the summer program, and then fell in love with the team and the coaching… and then I realized how much I actually love running," she said.

As her running career heats up, Frias has been getting calls from colleges with top cross country and track programs, and she says she definitely wants to compete at the college level.

For now, though, she's keeping her focus on her Costa running career, and hoping to break some of her own records.

A Legacy of Mira Costa Women in Running

Coach Smith, a Costa alum, was herself a groundbreaking runner at the high school. She founded the Mira Costa girls' cross country team at a time when there was only a boys' team in that sport.

Cattivera, the former 800-meter record holder, was an all-star runner at Costa who went on to run at Princeton and then qualify for the 1992 Olympic trials.

Smith added that Cattivera, whose 37-year-old record Frias broke, is "incredibly supportive" of the Costa track team. Cattivera texted Smith after Frias broke the record to say, "Yay - that's awesome!"

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