Born: November 1, 1967 (Salina, Kansas)
Graduated: Southeast of Saline High School, 1986 / Kansas State University, 1991
The decathlon is one of the most difficult athletic events to compete in. There are ten different events involved: 100-meter run, 110-meter hurdles, 400-meter run, 1500-meter run, long jump, high jump, pole vault, shot put, discus throw and javelin throw. Now imagine competing in this at the Olympic Games, where the best decathletes in the world are competing.
Steve Fritz accomplished this goal. Fritz finished in fourth place in the decathlon at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, and was within twenty points of becoming an Olympic medalist. In fact, Fritz’s 8644 score in the event was better than all but one decathlon Olympic gold medalist and was the sixth-best score in the history of the decathlon at the Olympic Games to that point.
Prior to that, Fritz was a multi-sport high school athlete in Gypsum. After he finished high school, he joined Hutchinson Community College on a basketball scholarship and he walked on to the track team. In his sophomore year at Hutchinson, Fritz won two national championships, one in basketball and one in the decathlon. In basketball, Fritz made a crucial three-point-play with twenty-two seconds left to bring Hutch the first basketball national championship in school history. The following spring, Fritz won the junior college national championship in the decathlon. Not bad for a walk-on.
After his sophomore year, he received a track scholarship offer from Kansas State University, finally giving him the opportunity to compete in Division I athletics. Fritz would also go on to play basketball as a walk-on for the Wildcats. During his time at Kansas State, Fritz became a two-time All-American in the decathlon, as he won the Big Eight Conference Championship in both seasons and set the new Big Eight points record with 7,924 points as a senior.
After his time with Kansas State, Fritz went on to represent the United States in the decathlon numerous times, including his fourth-place finish at the 1996 Olympic Games, a fourth-place finish at the 1997 IAAF World Championships, winning a silver medal at the 1994 Goodwill Games and winning a gold medal at the 1991 Summer Universiade. Fritz competed in events until his retirement in 2000. Fritz was also the assistant track coach at Kansas State up until his resignation in 2013.
Today, Fritz is the assistant basketball coach and head track coach at Wamego High School. His wife, Suzie, has been the head volleyball coach at Kansas State for nineteen years and counting. Steve and Suzie have two sons, T.J. and Jake, are also both athletes, with T.J. heading to the University of Nebraska-Kearney after playing basketball at Wamego High School and Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, while Jake plays basketball and football at Wamego High School.
Please welcome Steve Fritz to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
By: Sam Hays