UNION GROVE — To fully understand how Katie Fruth catapulted into one of the best shot putters in the state just one year after she took up the sport, consider this story about the Union Grove High School senior:
It was early 2018 and Fruth was preparing to take the ACT test. This only child of Barry and Cindy Fruth, who both work in the chemical field, didn’t just want to ace the test. She wanted to surpass the 32 her mother, the former Cindy Olson, scored back when she was at Park in the middle 1980s.
Katie scored an impressive 31, but that wasn’t good enough for her. So she re-took the exam in June 2018 and earned a 33 (the highest-possible score is 36).
“I don’t like losing,” she said. “I like being the best possible version of myself.”
Mission accomplished so far.
“Before she took the test, she said, ‘My main goal is to beat you, mom,’ “ said Cindy, who graduated a year early from Park in 1985. “Even after she got it, I said, ‘Yeah, but you didn’t start college at 16 like I did.’ And she said,’Yes, I did,’ because she went to Gateway and got her CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant).
“Even with me, there’s always been that competition of, ‘I’m going to beat my mom.’”
There you have it with Katie Fruth. She ranks fourth in her class with a 4.735 weighted grade-point average and plays the piano in her limited free time. She plans to enroll at an ROTC program for nursing at UW-Oshkosh this fall and then enlist into the nursing corps in the United States Army.
Her thirst to achieve carries over into the field of competition. Her real passion growing up was softball, but after only one varsity at-bat during her freshman and sophomore seasons at Union Grove, Fruth abruptly turned to track and field.
She had some experience in the shot put while at Raymond Elementary School in sixth through eighth grades, but few could have seen what was to come once she switched sports.
Fruth’s throw of 44 feet, 11 inches on May 3 at the Demon Invitational at Burlington ranks first on the All-Division State Honor Roll List. The next-best distance is 43-5 by Eva Goldstein of Somerset.
“I have never seen it,” Nick Ambrose, Fruth’s shot put coach said, when asked about her rapid emergence. “She really committed herself to pushing herself to be the best, especially after sectionals last year (when she fell four feet from qualifying for the state meet).”
How would Fruth have reacted to this two years ago?
“I would have told you that that you were crazy, that softball is my passion and that’s what I’m going to do,” she said. “I don’t even think I would have been able to fathom it.
“I couldn’t even tell you how I got here myself. I think all my frustration from everything else that’s gone on has helped me push myself so much harder. I’m in the weight room every single day, I’m at camps and any little piece of advice I can take to help me improve that much more, just that in itself has helped get me where I am now.”
When diamonds didn’t prove to be her best friend, Fruth hit the ground running. Even though she still has improper technique to this day — Fruth grasps the shot like a softball — she has progressed steadily during the last two years.
As a junior, Fruth placed third with a 34-foot effort in her first indoor meet, before hitting a figurative wall. With little feel for proper technique — “I had no clue what I was doing,” she said — Fruth struggled before eventually finding a rhythm and improving by four feet.
By the WIAA Division 1 Mukwonago Sectional last May 24, she reached 37-8½ to place fifth. Jenna Dankert of Oak Creek, who went on to win the state meet with a distance of 45-5, placed first that day with a mark of 43-7¼.
Fruth would have needed to reach 41-9 to qualify for state and she spent the offseason becoming the best she could be. She dedicated herself to weightlifting and improved her bench press by 40 pounds. And she also worked tirelessly on her technique by making regular commutes to Madison.
“She drove to Madison to do Madison Throws Club twice a week over the summer and then went every Sunday from September to March,” Ambrose said. “I have never met a kid who has been committed to everything in their life as she really has been.”
Fruth credits her drastic improvement to Ambrose.
“I came to practice the first day and I just thought he was one of the coolest people I ever met in my life,” she said. “He has helped me so much, even beyond track. He’s helped me grow as a person in general and he’s really the only person to help me get where I am now.
“Without coach Ambrose, I wouldn’t be anything.”
And now, Fruth is a top contender for a state medal two years after she was still playing softball. He competitive desire was front and center at the Demon Invitational, when she came up with that state-best effort May 3.
Her friend and rival, Franklin junior Brenna Masloroff, had already thrown 41-10½. Fruth’s competitive juices were flowing that day.
“Her and I threw together over the summer at the Madison Throwers Club,” Fruth said. “That Friday, I had gotten a cortisone shot in my wrist. I hold the shot put wrong, but it works for me, so that’s what we’re going with.
“My wrist was kind of sore, so I wasn’t expecting to PR. My best throw of the meet had been 41-9 and she had been struggling to hit 40, but her final throw was 41-10, so she’s beating me by one inch. I said, ‘No, I can’t let Brenna beat me.’
“So on my last throw, I went 44-11, so I PR’d by two and a half feet, which is a very big PR. That was solely driven by my competitive nature.”
How far will that competitive nature take Fruth this year?
“Obviously, I want to qualify first,” she said. “That’s goal No. 1. Goal No. 2 is to just PR. Right now, I’m at 44-11 and I want to hit 45. That’s a nice goal.
“Winning it all, that would be awesome. But PR’s don’t matter once you get to these meets. You have to compete against yourself.”
That has worked quite well for Fruth so far.