Josh Freeman could not fully comprehend the moment last week as he was measured and fitted for his new track and field uniform and other apparel, all stuff that will bear the letters “USA.”
The 2012 Cary-Grove graduate qualified from the USA Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, taking second in the shot put. By finishing in the top two, Freeman will be part of Team USA at the Pan American Junior Track and Field Championships on Aug. 23 through 26 in Medellin, Colombia.
“After we got done competing, we signed up, gave them our passport number and they outfit you for a uniform,” Freeman said. “It was all kind of surreal. It was a lot of the same stuff that the Olympic athletes wore last summer.”
Freeman, who will turn 19 in August, will be a sophomore at Southern Illinois University and was the Missouri Valley Conference shot put champion in May. He passed on a trip to the NCAA Regional to train and let a sore ankle get better, knowing the Junior Outdoor meet offered him a shot at traveling to South America this summer. The Junior championships take athletes up to 18 years old.
“I just figured it was a good opportunity for me to make the team,” Freeman said. “I could get the experience on an international stage. My chances of making it to nationals [in college] and doing well there were a little more slim. I was a little bummed not going to regionals, but I think I made the right decision.”
Freeman won the Class 3A shot put and discus state championships last year. His main competition there in the shot put was the state meet record (66-5 3/4) of Lake Park’s Jermaine Kline. Freeman was close, throwing 66-0.
Freeman threw 64-8 1/2 on his final attempt of the finals to move from third to second place. The Junior shot weighs 13.22 pounds, which is more than the high school shot (12) and less than the college shot (16). He threw 58-1 to win at the MVC Meet.
“In high school I had dominating marks and it was hard to get competition,” Freeman said. “Once I got to college, everybody’s competitive. I was in third and ended up taking second on my final throw. There were a couple of meets where I won or advanced on the last throw. That growth from high school has really helped me. Without it, I’m not on the [USA] team.”
Freeman (6-foot-5, 325 pounds) will stay in Carbondale most of the summer and work with Salukis throwing coach John Smith. Although he was one of the best shot putters in state history, Freeman says he has improved significantly in the last year.
“When I got here, I was 330 and the training dropped me to 304,” Freeman said. “I slowly built it back up. I’m a lot stronger now and I can handle [the weight]. If I was as strong as I was in high school and weighed this much, there’d be no way I would be able to move or anything.”