Weight Throw: Biggest in the Big Ten

By Chris Kennedy

Davis Fraker threw 20.67 meters in the weight throw at last year’s indoor Big Ten Championships. That same distance would have been good for eighth place in the nation if he had qualified for nationals a few weeks later. That’s how deep the Big Ten is in the weight throw.

“It’s unbelievable,” Fraker said of the level of competition. 

He is the Illini’s top weight thrower, and currently No. 25 in the country. Fraker calls the Big Ten the best conference ever for weight throw. Looking at the stats, it’s hard to disagree with him. The top four weight throwers in the country, plus three more in the top 30, all compete for Big Ten teams. And all of these top-ranked throwers will come together this weekend at the Big Ten Championships in Geneva, Ohio, for what Fraker bets will be “the strongest conference meet ever.”

The weight throw is an event exclusive to indoor track and it is unlike any other throwing event. 

“It’s probably the (most innate) thing you would ever think of,” Fraker said. 

The weight being thrown is a 35 pound ball with a handle attached. Throwing it looks similar to a hammer throw. 

“In most other throwing events, you want to try and leave the implement behind you and create a stretch with your body to propel the implement,” Fraker said. “In the weight throw, you don’t want to do that at all… you’re trying to create a long radius with speed on the ball by pushing it.” 

As with any throwing event, the goal is to throw it the farthest distance. Big Ten throwers throw it farther than almost anyone else.  

The conference dominates the event. At last year’s indoor national meet, five of the top ten weight throwers were from the Big Ten. This season is poised to be even better than last year though, as Big Ten members hold the top four overall spots in the national rankings. Wisconsin’s Michael Lihrman currently has the best mark in the country this season at 24.27 meters. He has already broken the national record this season, and also has the world’s best throw of 2014. The weight throw prowess isn’t historical, according to Fraker. It’s been a more recent development over the last few years.

Fraker couldn’t really put a finger on why the Big Ten is so strong in the event. One of his theories is that every school in the Big Ten competes indoors, while others don’t train indoors and some schools don’t even train for the event.

For Fraker, competing in the best conference in the country has two sides. On one hand, it makes for exciting competitions. 

“I know everyone’s going to come and compete at their best,” said Fraker, “I know it’s going to be a good meet. I like meets that have a lot of energy and a lot of good throwers in them.” 

But it has its drawbacks as well. Fraker feels he has been throwing well this season and would be able to place much higher in a different conference. While Fraker is currently No. 25 in the country, he’s currently sixth in the Big Ten.

Fraker goes into the indoor conference championships with much more confidence than previous years. He has improved his technique and matured mentally. Even more importantly, he has had more training to prepare than in past seasons. 

“A lot of my other years, I’ve dealt with sickness and injuries,” Fraker said. “Last year I really had only practiced for a few weeks before conference, so I was going in a little rusty.” 

Fraker said he feels the uninterrupted training will aid him in this year’s meet.

The biggest change from last year though, is the experience Fraker now carries as an upperclassman. One of the most important things he has learned about the Big Ten is the need to start fast. 

“With the Big Ten, it’s so strong you have to throw well just to make finals,” Fraker said, “(I’ve got to) put it together in the first three throws or I won’t even make finals.”

He also learned what happens when someone starts throwing far. It’s one of two things according to Fraker. Either “everyone gets kind of intimidated and starts trying too hard and they don’t throw as well,” or people start rising to the challenge and throw well, which Fraker says always happens. At the conference championships, “people just feed off that energy.”

Fraker’s goals for the meet are also two-fold. He is still looking for a strong throw this season that will qualify him for nationals. But he also realizes how important is performance is to the team.

“It’s a very big team meet, so I’m trying to score as many points as I can, get as high of a place as I can,” Fraker said.

Fraker has his work cut out for him in the “strongest conference meet ever” for the weight throw.  Last year, the Illini finished second to Wisconsin at the indoor conference championships. The margin was only 2.5 points, so Fraker knows that every point counts and he’ll have to fight for each one, especially in an event as competitive as the weight throw.

“Because there’s so many people throwing very far, it’s going to come down to be a matter of small increments, separating second from third,” Fraker said.

Chris can be reached at [email protected]