Southern Illinois University freshman Josh Freeman chose not to compete this week in Austin, Texas, for a shot at the NCAA outdoor track and field nationals.
After winning the Missouri Valley Conference outdoor shot put title this month, the Cary-Grove graduate has his eyes on international competition this summer.
“I think it would be cool to wear the USA jersey,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to compete on a world stage.”
Rather than compete in this week’s NCAA regional at the University of Texas, Freeman is training in Carbondale in hopes of making Team USA for the Pan American Junior Athletics Championships, which will take place in August in Lima, Peru.
Freeman said he can lock up a spot on the junior USA squad by finishing in the top two in the shot put at a qualifier next month in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I think it would allow me to see what it’s like to compete more than a couple hours’ drive away in Illinois or in Iowa,” he said. “I want to see how I can adjust to that. It would be my first time out of the country. That experience would mean a whole lot to me.”
Freeman enjoyed another first May 11 at Drake University in Des Moines when he threw the shot 58 feet, 1 inch to claim the first MVC title of his young career.
“It means a lot to get that first one under my belt,” he said. “Now I can just focus on hopefully dominating [future MVC meets].”
The 18-year-old Freeman was leading the competition by a foot even before his final throw of 58-1.
The victory made up for what Freeman called a “bittersweet” MVC indoor meet at which he finished second.
Returning to Drake for the Pan Am qualifier is a welcome trip for Freeman. He competed there at the historic Drake Relays this spring, and the city also hosted the MVC outdoor meet.
The Drake Relays drew hundreds of top college and international competitors and thousands of fans. Among the athletes Freeman watched was American shot putter Reese Hoffa, the 2012 bronze medalists at the London Olympics.
“I’ve never seen a stadium that big so packed for track,” he said. “The atmosphere at Drake is awesome.”
Winona winner: Freshman outfielder Reed Karsten (Marengo) earned second-team All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference honors this month for D-II Winona (Minn.) State’s softball team.
Karsten batted .375 with a team-high 10 stolen bases while starting every game for the Warriors (37-14), whose season ended last weekend in the NCAA Super Regional round against Central Oklahoma.
Karsten ranked second on the team in hits (63) and third in runs (45) while driving in 23 runs.
Senior infielder Kaitlin Hardie (Crystal Lake South) batted .305 while starting 46 games at second base this season. Hardie had 24 RBIs and 22 runs scored for the Warriors while producing a .382 on-base percentage.
Concordia contributor: Marian Central grad Steve Zubrzycki played a key role this season in D-III Concordia University’s baseball success.
A sophomore third baseman for the Cougars, Zubrzycki batted .338 while ranking third on the team with 32 runs scored. Along with 24 RBIs, Zubrzycki had six doubles and a .419 on-base percentage while helping the Cougars (39-7) win the Northern Athletics Conference’s regular-season and tournament titles.
Zubrzycki was named the NAC Position Player of the Week after posting three multi-hit games and batting .400 in the league tournament.
The Cougars’ season ended last weekend in the NCAA Central Regional in Moline, Ill., where they won their first three postseason games in school history and lost in the regional final, 7-3, to Webster University.
All-conference honors: Cary-Grove grads Kyle Williams and Brian Marquis were recognized this month as all-conference baseball players by the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.
Williams, a senior outfielder for North Park University, earned first-team honors after leading the team in RBIs (34), hits (61) and triples (five) while ranking second with a .355 batting average. Williams, who previously played at McHenry County College, started 41 games for the Vikings (21-21) and twice earned CCIW Player of the Week honors this season.
Marquis, a senior at Elmhurst College who was selected to the second team as a utility player, pitched a team-best five complete games for the Bluejays (19-19) while posting the team’s third-best ERA (3.86). While ranking second with 51 1/3 innings pitched, Marquis walked only six batters.
As a position player, Marquis batted .305 and drove in 15 runs while starting 28 times.
• 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 @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.