OCEAN PARK - Kristi Freese is a special young woman. She recently won the grand championship at the Tillamook Open Martial Arts Tournament over more than a 100 male and female competitors of all ages.
During her freshman year in high school, she qualified for the 2A state track and field meet in the pole vault. Kristi's grade point average through her sophomore year is a perfect 4.0 at Ilwaco High School, and she has given marvelous performances in high school plays, as well.
But those accomplishments are small potatoes to what the 16-year-old has to conquer every day.
"Two years ago I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa - a genetic eating disorder," Freese explained. "The brain makes someone with anorexia nervosa think they should not eat."
Freese said, "I'm a very logical person, but my disorder does not make sense. Unless you have it, there is no way you can understand it."
"I know physically I need to eat to keep healthy, but I really have to struggle daily with what my brain tells me." Freese was hospitalized for three months and not allowed to participate in martial arts, track, or any other taxing physical activity until she regained strength.
"I have to live with the duality within, but it tears me apart," she admitted.
Succeeding in martial arts has helped her. "I love the discipline martial arts give me. It is a release both physically and mentally. It makes me really concentrate on what I am doing."
She practices at least a little bit every day, often in the morning. "I love it, but it's definitely more work that play," Freese said of her workouts.
Kristi also loves track and field. "I really miss track, but martial arts is something I have done off and on the past 10 years and it will always be a part of my life, where track is something I would only have done in high school."
Mother Sue Freese helped her daughter reason that Kristi needed to do what she wanted to do. "I asked her how she would feel if martial arts class was on her schedule for the day or if track practice was, and she said she was definitely more excited about martial arts."
Sue and husband Jeff and sisters Katie and Kelly have been extremely supportive and patient throughout Kristi's ordeal.
"The doctors helped by explaining that telling Kristi to eat was like telling a diabetic (also a genetic disorder) to produce more insulin. It helped to relieve any blame or guilt any of us might have."
At the Tillamook Open tournament June 12 Kristi earned the honor of being Grand Champion in the Kung Fu Weapons Forms division over both males and females of all ages. Freese also took first place in traditional forms Tae Kwon Do, a second place trophy in padded stick sparring, and a fourth place trophy in point sparring.
Freese has studied the past several years at Mather Martial Arts Academy in Warrenton and attended a seminar by Eric Lee, a grand master, where she learned the Kung Fu sword form weapons discipline. She has quickly progressed to being a green belt and has aspirations of becoming a black belt before she graduates from high school.
Besides being a grand champion Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do competitor, Freese is attending a school in New Jersey this week run by world-famous tracker, Tom Brown, Jr.
"I read some books by Tom Brown and am excited to be able to go to New Jersey to learn his techniques," she said. "He is one of the best (animal) trackers in the world and loves to pass on his knowledge learned from a Native American he called grandfather."
When she returns to the Peninsula, Freese will work at the WSU Extension Unit to study controlling spartina in Willapa Bay. And of course the busy and personable junior-to-be at IHS will continue to fight to survive the disorder that threatens to take her tremendous talents away.
"I have to learn to live with it (anorexia nervosa) every day," she said matter-of-factly and sounding every bit like the champion she has proven to be.