Fraker and Joseph prepare for indoor national meet

By Chris Kennedy

Junior weight thrower David Fraker and senior hurdler Vanier Joseph will compete this weekend at the NCAA Indoor National Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. While almost all of the Illini men’s track and field team is focused on preparing for the upcoming outdoor season, these two athletes have one more final indoor competition.

Fraker has been one of the country’s top throwers since high school. As a senior, he was a national champion and set an all-time high school record for weight throw that still stands today.

As a freshman at Illinois, he became the first Illini to ever qualify for nationals in the weight throw, finishing 10th.

Fraker’s past success made a long-term case of mononucleosis last season all the more difficult to handle. Fraker was out from Thanksgiving to January and still managed a seventh-place finish at Big Tens; however, he missed out on a trip to nationals. That makes his return to the meet this year all the more rewarding.

“When I was younger, I never really had many struggles, so the past couple years have definitely humbled me, and I appreciate this opportunity a lot more than I probably ever have,” Fraker said.

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Head coach Mike Turk said he’s proud of the way Fraker has overcome his problems.

”Right now, he’s throwing his best,” Turk said. “I think it’s a testament to him sticking with it mentally.”

Both Fraker and Joseph will be competing in events exclusive to the indoor season, the weight throw for Fraker and the 60-meter hurdles for Joseph. The top-16 athletes in each event across the country, and the top-12 relay teams, are given the opportunity to compete at the indoor national meet.

Last year, the Illini sent four representatives: Joseph, sprinter Stephon Pamilton, the 4×400-meter relay team and the distance medley relay team. Joseph returns this year for his third trip to nationals while Fraker is making his second.

Joseph placed 11th last year in the hurdles and is currently ranked No. 16 in the event. He is coming off of a third-place finish at Big Tens two weeks ago. He said he is prepared for the atmosphere of the national meet.

“You know you’re going against the top 16 people in the country. You know you have to bring your A-game,” Joseph said. “There’s no room for mistakes or for distractions, you know you have to go into the meet really focused and ready to go.”

Fraker finished sixth in the weight throw at Big Tens, and is currently ranked No. 15 in the country. He said he feels like he is ready for a big showing at nationals.

“I’ve been throwing in practice a lot further than I was before Big Tens,” Fraker said. “Typically if you throw what you threw to qualify, you can get top eight, so if I can improve on that at all, I’ll be looking at a pretty good spot.”

Turk said both athletes are focused and poised to perform well this weekend.

“You come here for one reason: you come here to get up on the podium,” Turk said. “I think both of those guys are experienced, have been here before, and are capable of getting up on the podium.

“That’s really the focus of both of those guys.”

Chris can be reached at [email protected].