Run fast, turn left: Inside Derek Frimpong’s rise on the track

Maple Ridge’s Derek Frimpong is representing Team BC at the youth track and field nationals in Quebec from Aug. 11-13
Derek Frimpong specializes in the 100, 200, 300, and 400 metre dash. Photo by Josh Kozelj.

The baseball coach arrived at practice with a challenge. 

It was the spring of 2021, a period when the world started to return to some sense of normalcy after the pandemic, and the Maple Ridge baseball coach wanted to test his team of Grade 8 boys on the basepath. 

Whoever could run from home plate to first base — a distance of roughly 25 metres — in under three seconds would receive a Dilly Bar, a stick of soft serve vanilla ice cream, coated with chocolate. 

Derek Frimpong had never run competitively before. 

He could never hit a baseball especially hard, however, when it was his turn to bat in a game, he always had the potential to get on base with his speed. 

When it was his turn to run, he stepped up to the plate. Without worrying about hitting a fastball or curveball, Frimpong dug his cleats into the dirt. He crouched into a standing start, left foot in front of right. And on his coach’s count, he sprinted down the first base line. 

Moments later, the coach looked at the time on his watch: 2.99 seconds. 

The time surprised Frimpong. Although he successfully won the frozen treat, shortly after the competition, he came to a conclusion.

“Maybe I’ll try [track and field] when I get to high school,” he recalls thinking.

Two years later, Frimpong has captured a provincial track and field title, earned the opportunity to represent B.C. at a national meet, and is one of the best emerging sprinters in the province. 

But he’s not letting the success get to his head. 

At the track

On an overcast, muggy August day at the Maple Ridge Secondary School track, Frimpong arrives in a bright blue tank top and shorts. 

It’s three days before Frimpong is scheduled to compete in the 300-metre dash at the Legion National Youth Track and Field Championships in Sherbrooke, Quebec for Team BC.

He’s quick to greet me with a handshake and a smile. He sits up straight in the bleachers overlooking the school’s track. His Golden Ears Athletics singlet — the local track and field club he joined shortly after the Dilly Bar race — is neatly folded by his side. 

He shares a laugh with his teammates, who arrive to practice shortly after him. 

Frimpong, who was recently selected as BC Athletics’ “Athlete of the Week” for winning three medals at a provincial meet last month, has a small warmup and a couple strides on deck for the afternoon before youth nationals later in the week. 

Frimpong (right) with a trio of his teammates who will also compete at youth nationals this week. Photo by Josh Kozelj

So far, the highlight of  Frimpong’s breakout season was barreling through the 300-metre dash in less than 37 seconds. The July performance earned him a provincial title and spot on Team B.C. He also ran the 100 metre in 11 seconds and 200 metre dash in just over 23 seconds.

In April, when his outdoor season began, Frimpong was battling an ankle injury and had trouble imagining he would achieve those feats. 

“At the start of the season, I’m like, ‘How am I gonna get this?’” he said. “I just had to work hard and trust the process.” 

But Rick Lloyd, the senior sprints and jumps coach at Golden Ears Athletics, has coached Frimpong since he joined the club two years ago and said his talent was evident early on. It was only a matter of time before he started to see results, Lloyd explains.

“We saw this tall [kid] with lanky arms and legs that were going everywhere,” he said. “And we watched him and we were like, ‘Oh! He’s fast.’” 

Envisioning the future

Lloyd credits Frimpong’s dedication to learning the proper form — such as knee drive and how to start out of blocks — for his success. 

He also says Frimpong’s desire to play other sports has helped him on the track. 

“I encourage multiple sport playing,” Lloyd said. “School offers so many advantages to you to just do whatever.” 

Frimpong is entering Grade 10 next fall at Maple Ridge Secondary School and still plays soccer alongside running track and field. But he believes that he may have more potential to reach a university scholarship in track and field. 

In the meantime, he’s focused on lowering his personal best time in all of his events from the 100 metre to 400 metre dash, as well as earning a medal at youth nationals later this week. 

“I wanna see if I can get into medal position,” he said. 

Photo by Josh Kozelj

At the track, Frimpong emerges from the bleachers and joins his teammates in a two-lap warmup.

After the short run, Frimpong stands on the backstretch of the track. He skips towards the finish line, swinging his arms up and down over his head. He then heads towards the 100 metre start line. 

Lloyd has placed a set of starting blocks in a middle lane. Carefully, Frimpong measures his feet against the blocks and croches down into a starting position. 

“On your own go,” Lloyd says, as Frimpong takes a deep breath. 

After a couple seconds, the same amount of time it took him to run to first base, Frimpong extends his back to the sky and leaps from the blocks, dashing towards the finish line.


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