Despite winning the Missouri Valley Conference outdoor shot put title last spring, Josh Freeman doesn’t remember the season fondly.
“My outdoor season didn’t go as well as I had planned,” the Cary-Grove graduate said. “I had some injuries that set me back.”
Freeman, a sophomore at Southern Illinois in Carbondale is quickly making that season a distant memory.
In back-to-back weeks, Freeman has broken the SIU and MVC outdoor shot put records and won the conference's Male Field Athlete of the Week award.
His latest triumph was winning the event at last weekend’s Eastern Illinois Big Blue Classic in Charleston with a throw of 63 feet, 6 inches, which ranks fourth in the nation. The throw broke Freeman’s own SIU and MVC outdoor records by almost a foot and also smashed EIU’s meet and O’Brien Field records.
“It’s great to have back-to-back weeks with [personal records],” he said. “It’s a big confidence boost.”
In his first outdoor meet, SIU’s Bill Cornell Spring Classic last month, Freeman’s throw of 62-8¾ broke the 30-year-old MVC record of his throws coach, John Smith, by more than 5 inches.
“It was nice to get that out of the way early and focus on some other things,” Freeman said.
One of those other things is competing in the NCAA outdoor championships in Eugene, Ore., in June.
Having thrown in Illinois state championships, large collegiate invitationals and an international competition, Freeman has competed on plenty of big stages.
“I’ve been in a lot of big meets, and I never get nervous,” he said.
That changed at last month’s NCAA indoor championships in Albuquerque, N.M., where he finished 10th, missing the finals in the shot put by one spot.
“I get to nationals and I feel like a wall is caving in on my chest,” Freeman said. “All of a sudden, I’m throwing against guys that, when I was in high school, I was watching on YouTube. My teammate, J.C. (Lambert), said, ‘You have to realize that now you’re one of those guys that kids are watching. Kids are looking at you now the way that you looked at them.’”
Freeman’s third and final throw at nationals (62-0¼) was his best of the meet. However, he was passed for the final spot.
Starting with this weekend’s Sea Ray Relays at the University of Tennessee, Freeman will compete at several big meets, including ones in California and Kansas.
“It brings out a whole other level of competition,” he said.
Freeman said Smith, his coach, thinks a throw of 65 feet will place in the top three at nationals this spring.
“He thinks I can throw 65 or 66 (feet) in the next couple of weeks,” Freeman said. “He’s pretty good at predicting those things.”
Whitewater winner Burton: While helping D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater place third in the nation last month, Crystal Lake South grad Katie Burton was named an honorable mention All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection in women’s basketball.
Burton, a senior from Crystal Lake South, was a team-best 44.1 percent 3-point shooter while averaging 8.6 points and 3.4 rebounds. She started every game this season for the Warhawks (27-5), who beat Tufts, 72-54, in the NCAA third-place game.
Best Buc Kaveney: Beloit College sophomore left-hander Ryan Kaveney was chosen Monday as the Midwest Conference Pitcher of the Week. Kaveney (Cary-Grove) pitched a complete-game, four-hit shutout April 5 in a 5-0 victory against Lawrence, striking out 13 with no walks.
For the season, Kaveney is 3-1 with a 1.20 ERA for D-III Beloit (11-7). In 30 innings pitched, Kaveney has 32 strikeouts and five walks while allowing opposing hitters to bat .205.
Crescenti outstanding at Augie: Jacobs grad Alexander Crescenti, a sophomore at D-III Augustana, was named the Midwest Lacrosse Conference’s Player of the Week on Monday.
In two victories the previous week, Crescenti scored 10 goals and caused three turnovers for the Vikings (7-3). He also collected six ground balls in the victories – 17-5 against Milwaukee School of Engineering and 12-5 over Benedictine. For the season, Crescenti leads the team with 26 goals.
Ripon racer Adams: Cary-Grove grad Ryan Adams, a freshman distance runner at D-III Ripon (Wis.) College, earned Midwest Conference Men’s Track Performer of the Week honors Tuesday.
Adams finished second in the 1,500-meter run in 4:13.25 at the Carroll University Invitational and was the top collegiate finisher in the race. Adams also ran a leg on Ripon’s fifth-place 4x400 relay team, which finished in 3:36.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryOnCampus.