Troy Fraley

Kalispell Glacier graduate Troy Fraley of Gonzaga competes in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships on Friday in Eugene, Ore.

CHUCK ARAGON, for 406mtsports.com

EUGENE, Ore. — Steeplechaser Troy Fraley was practicing to become Gonzaga’s first All-American in track and field when he hurt his right shin.

He was practicing the water jump on Monday, and he landed funny and felt something pop. Initially he thought it was a sore muscle, but as the pain lingered, he learned it was in the bone.

Lots of icing and Advil were in order during the week.

But the injury didn’t hold him back Friday, when he achieved his goal by running a personal-best time of 8 minutes, 35.38 seconds to finish seventh in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and earn All-America status.

“It didn’t affect me at all in the race when adrenaline took over,” he said.

X-rays may come in the future, and certainly more rest. 

Fraley was one of two Kalispell natives to compete Friday at Hayward Field. Zach Perrin, running for Colorado, finished 11th in the 5,000 meters with a time of 14:41.50.

Fraley was disappointed in his strategy in the preliminary round. He was pinned behind a group of runners with 250 meters to go, only to break to the outside on the final stretch.

In Friday’s final, Fraley was running in the fifth position entering the final lap. The race had been a fast one to start, and Fraley was near the front, but during the final laps, veterans of championship racing made moves Fraley didn’t anticipate.

“I learned that people don’t show all their cards in the prelims,” he said. “It was tough to change gears like they were doing, but I PR’d by four seconds.”

Fraley wants to be back next year, and the experience with championship style racing will help. “I’m just excited because it’s big things for our program,” Fraley, a Kalispell Glacier graduate, said. “I know I’m going to be back next year and a shot at that title. Hopefully I’ll have some guys from GU with me.”

He wants more, but he doesn’t take what he just accomplished for granted. “Gonzaga’s first All-American — I can’t complain about that,” he said. “That’s an honor to me.”

Perrin, who competed in high school for Kalispell Flathead, was running the 5,000 meters for the first time this season.

“I tried the 800, the 1,500, had decent success in both,” he said.

“Tried the steeplechase this year and that was kind of a disaster. … The 5K has suited me well.”

In Friday’s final, the runners started slow. It wasn’t until three laps to go that the frontrunners made their moves. Perrin was hovering in the 10th spot, but he was unable to make the kick with the top runners.

“Not my best race, but it was definitely a good learning experience,” he said. “Needed to kick harder at the end. Fell apart at the end, usually have better speed at the end.”

Two other Colorado teammates were in the race. Perrin, Joe Klecker and John Dressel and finished one, two, three in the Pac-12 Championships, respectively, and Friday they helped calm some of Perrin’s nerves.

“Having my teammates in that race was awesome,” he said. “I trained with them every day. Sometimes when you get to the line it gets a little scary, but it’s nice having those two guys around.”

Perrin, although he wished he ran faster in the final, couldn’t complain about the year: “I improved a lot, and I think after that performance I know I have a lot more, and I just have to put in the work this summer.”

Perrin’s time at the NCAA Championship is a one big learning experience.

The junior has one more year to get comfortable in the 5,000 meters.

“Not only is this great competition, the best you’re going to see all year, but it’s also a great motivator,” Perrin said. “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to come here and do it on this day.”

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