Area colleges: Belmont thrower pushes records way out of reach

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 9:42pm

Joe Frye is running out of records to break.

Instead, the Belmont senior is making it hard for future Bruins to catch up.

Frye tossed the hammer 61.45 meters, or 201 feet and seven inches, to place second at Saturday’s Vanderbilt Invitational. In so doing, he shattered the school record, which he began breaking once he arrived on campus nearly five years ago. His throw of 57.41 meters at last year’s Atlantic Sun Conference meet was a school mark and a conference record — only recognized at league meets.

To put it into perspective — the Belmont record for the hammer throw before Frye came onto the scene was 131 feet. He threw 141 feet, two inches his freshman year in 2007.

“It is a lot nicer when your own personal bests are the actual records themselves,” he said. “I obviously try to improve every single time. It definitely gives me a goal to reach for. I don’t really have anybody else to compete with on the team. There are a couple other throwers but I was pretty much flying solo for a while. So those [records] are pretty much what I have to strive to keep on getting better.”

Frye owns five different school records, three during the outdoor season (discus, shot put and hammer) and two during the indoor campaign (shot put and weight throw).

But he admits he didn’t expect to rewrite Belmont history when he left his hometown of Roscommon, Mich. A multisport athlete in high school — he played the traditional sports such as football, basketball, baseball and golf, along with downhill skiing — he walked on to the Bruins track and field team.

Primarily a shot putter in high school, he thought that was where he would excel in college. He was pleasantly surprised, though.

“It turns out that wasn’t necessarily my calling,” Frye said. “I’m not terrible at the event but it is obviously not my best. Picking up the hammer my freshman year felt really natural. But I never expected to be on this level — at all. I just didn’t think it was possible for a guy to come in and walk on and pick up the hammer for the first time in his life and then four and half years later be one of the top throwers in the country. I just didn’t think it was possible.”

Frye said three components factored into his development as one of the best throwers in the Atlantic Sun and in the country. First, he has the natural talent with a 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame. He admits he wasn’t always the strongest — “I couldn’t bench press 180 pounds,” he said. However, he hit the weight room and worked with strength and conditioning coach Josh McMillian, who helps coach the throwers on the track team.

Frye said McMillian and support from his coaching staff and family are the second key to his success.

“I was lucky enough to have a coach fall in my lap who knew what he was doing and a young coach so open to new ideas and not set in his ways,” Frye said. “It was definitely a learning process for both of us throughout the whole time.”

Finally, Frye said his work ethic has played a pivotal role in his growth. He actually redshirted the 2008-09 season in order to have a year where he just focused on improving. It has paid off. He was named the Outstanding Male Field Performer at the A-Sun meet the last two seasons and earlier this month he was named a National Strength and Conditioning Association Athlete of the Year.

His work isn’t done, however.

He has never reached the NCAA Championships. He’ll have his chance to qualify when the Mideast Regionals roll around on May 26-27 in Bloomington, Ind. His hammer throw mark currently ranks 18th in his region and the top 12 throwers at the regional advance to nationals.

Frye graduated last May with a bachelor’s degree in music business and is currently in graduate school for sports administration. He plans to serve on the track team as a graduate assistant coach next year. So this will be his last chance to reach the national meet and become an All-American.

“This has been an amazing ride so far and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Frye said. “I am completely content with where I am right now but I definitely want to see what I can do within the next couple months to get myself into the top tier of the NCAA.”

• Golf regional: The Vanderbilt women’s golf team is headed to an NCAA regional for the 12th straight year. The Commodores have been selected as the eighth seed in the East, which will take place May 7-9 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla.

VU is coming off a seventh-place finish at the Southeastern Conference tournament. Sophomore Anna Leigh Keith (eighth place) was the top individual finisher. Sophomore Lauren Stratton and junior Marina Alex, who was the defending league champion, both placed 24th.

“At different times this year, our top four they have all had a top-10 finish. We just need them to piece it together and do that at the same time,” coach Greg Allen said. “Hopefully that will come at regionals. We want to peak at the right time. It hasn’t been the season we thought we could have, but it has still been a pretty decent season and a learning process for some of our younger players.”

The Commodores are one of 24 teams in the regional and one of 11 SEC teams to receive postseason bids. Vanderbilt took fifth in its regional in 2010 and was seventh at the NCAA Championships.

• Trevecca's tough: The Trevecca Nazarene softball team is rolling into postseason play. And rolling is an understatement.

Under third-year head coach Ben Tyree, the sixth-ranked Trojans are riding a 14-game winning streak into the TranSouth Athletic Conference tournament on May 4-7 at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson. Trevecca is a remarkable 42-3 overall and 29-1 in league action. The Trojans, who won the conference title, will be trying to reach their fifth NAIA national tournament in the last six years. They made it to the eight-team championship bracket in 2010.

Statistically they are in the top 10 in the country in batting average, doubles, slugging percentage, runs scored and RBIs.

Father Ryan product Riley Mashburn leads the team on the mound, going 18-3 with a 2.49 ERA. The Brentwood native struck out 11 batters in 13 innings in two games last week, earning the conference’s nod as pitcher of the week. The junior allowed two runs on eight hits in the two wins, posting a 1.08 ERA during the process.

• Top tennis coach: Middle Tennessee’s first-year men’s tennis coach Jimmy Borendame was named the Sun Belt Conference’s coach of the year.

Borendame guided the Blue Raiders to their second league championship in three years and third overall. With the win, MTSU received the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The team will learn where they will play next week. The Blue Raiders are led by all-conference selection Ben Davis and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Matthew Langley.

Borendame came to MTSU after one year as an assistant at Drake in Des Moines, Iowa. He has also served stints at Virginia Tech, West Virginia and William & Mary.

• Weekly honors: A handful of area colleges were represented this week when several leagues handed out their weekly honors.

Trevecca senior Chad Reynolds hit .571 (8-for-14) and had 12 RBIs last week, earning him the TranSouth’s player of the week honors. The infielder from Santa Maria, Calif., hit two home runs and two doubles and scored five runs. 

Middle Tennessee State senior Will Skinner was named the Sun Belt Conference’s player of the week. The Murfreesboro native hit .526 in three games last week with three home runs, seven RBIs and seven runs scored. The outfielder posted a slugging percentage of 1.105 and a .591 on-base percentage.

In tennis, Cumberland freshman Pedro Rodrigues was named the TranSouth’s player of the week. He won his two singles matches and was victorious against Western Kentucky in doubles with Na’im Azhar. Rodrigues, a native of Portugal, is now 8-4 in singles and 9-3 in doubles.

In softball, Cumberland freshman Sarah Murray earned the league’s player of the week honors. She hit .538 with seven RBIs. The first baseman from Collierville, Tenn., also smacked out her first career home run against Campbellsville University.

In golf, Trevecca swept the weekly honors. Junior Ashley Schism was named the TranSouth’s women’s golfer of the week after she took first at the Union University Invitational. Schism, a graduate of Donelson Christian Academy, has three wins this season and four in her career.

Junior Joey Bradley captured the men’s individual title at Union, edging Union’s Brett Barry in a playoff for his second win of the season. With the win, he received the weekly honor for the second time this year. The Hickman County grad now has six career wins.

On the track, Middle Tennessee State junior Roscoe Payne earned the Sun Belt’s track athlete of the week award after winning the 110- and 400-meter hurdles at the Vanderbilt Invitational on Saturday. The Flint, Mich., native posted a time of 51.99, which is the best in the Sun Belt and ranks 22nd in the NCAA East Region.