Championships marked transition for Southern Illinois thrower
Southern Illinois thrower Josh Freeman has a fantastic future ahead of him -- competing internationally, interning under his former coach, and even getting to coach his sister with the Salukis.
His college career, however, almost ended with disappointment.
At the recent NCAA Championships, Freeman's college career nearly ended with one of his shorter shot-put throws. With all of the results in, however, Freeman found himself in ninth place, barely qualifying for the finals.
"I felt like I had a second life and that since I did make it, I need(ed) to make the best of the opportunity and finish strong on my last three throws because I knew I was leaving a lot of distance left on the table," Freeman told the Lake County Gazette.
Freeman made the most of his second chance, beating his first throw (62 feet, 3 inches) by nearly two feet (63 feet, 10.25 inches) to finish sixth and end his college career on a higher note. In fact, all of Freeman's top throws came in the last two months of his career. He attributes that to recovering from a freak foot injury caused while stepping off a bus. The injury worked its way up to his glute, and he only recently recovered.
"Finally being healthy definitely helped out," he said. "I was able to train at 100 percent following my glute injury for the week and a half leading up to the championships. Getting healthy at the right time was definitely a huge contributor."
Freeman's successes in college are just the latest in a series of athletic achievements. He was a two-time USA Track and Field All-American, three-time All-Conference, and three-time All-County at Cary-Grove High School, still holding the school records for shot put and discus.
He had a shot-put throw of 66 feet, which still ranks third in Illinois state high school history, and had a discus throw of 181 feet, 3 inches, which set a school record. At Southern Illinois, Freeman became the first male thrower in the 108-year history of the Missouri Valley Conference to win four straight outdoor shot-put titles.
Freeman also set a Southern Illinois record at the championships, receiving All-American honors for the fifth time. That tied a school record set by his events coach, J.C. Lambert. Freeman said his name being mentioned with the other All-Americans is an honor.
"It means a lot because there have been a lot of great athletes who accomplished quite a bit during their time at SIU, and to be up at the top of that list with the rest of those athletes is very special," Freeman said.
Freeman recently graduated from Southern Illinois with a degree in sports management, and missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team last week.
His track career is not over, however. He'll be heading to San Salvador this month to represent the United States on the North America, Central America and Caribbean (NACAC) Under-23 team. The NACAC competition will be Freeman's second international contest, having won gold in shot put at the 2013 Pan Am Juniors in Colombia
Freeman also will use his sports-management degree to intern under Lambert at Southern Illinois, where he'll have the privilege of coaching his younger sister Nikki, a discus thrower, who is coming to SIU in the fall.