NASHVILLE, Tenn. — USA Track & Field has named a team of 77 athletes who will compete in the 2023 Pan American Games; one of those 77 athletes is Vanderbilt graduate student Veronica Fraley.
Originally selected as an alternate, she received an email notifying her that she would be competing with Team USA in Santiago, Chile.
“It [being selected] took me by complete surprise, but I was excited,” Fraley recalled. “I love to travel, especially for competitions, and I’m happy to go to a new place I’ve never been before.”
The 2023 Pan American Games will be Fraley’s third with Team USA. She competed in the discus at the 2022 and 2023 World Athletics Championships.
Vanderbilt on the international stage
Last season, five Vanderbilt student-athletes earned spots on their respective national teams for international competitions. After a fourth-place finish at the USATF Outdoor Championships, Fraley was selected to compete for Team USA at the 2023 World Athletics Championships. Alumna and Canadian 400-meter hurdles silver medalist Brooke Overholt joined Fraley in Hungary for the World Championships to represent Canada. A trio of U20 student-athletes, Audrey Allman, Allyria McBride and USATF and Pan American U20 hammer throw champion Giavonna Meeks qualified to compete in the Pan American U20 Championships in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, this summer.
“As a program, we set several goals to work toward,” director of cross country and track and field Althea Thomas said. “One goal was to have more Vanderbilt athletes representing their respective countries at international competitions. To have five ladies meet this goal in our second year helps confirm that we are doing things with intention and that Vanderbilt is an elite institution academically and athletically. We have a group of men and women who believe in our system and our values and who want to show, not just the SEC or NCAA, but the world how great we are.”
Tiger to Commodore
When Fraley came to Nashville as a graduate transfer from Clemson, her personal best in the discus was 56.73 meters. Almost two years later, her PR is more than 6 meters farther at 63.51 meters.
A jump like that did not come without hard work. For Fraley, Thomas identified her determination and focus as helping her accomplish such feats, describing her as someone who “knows how to display grit with grace and poise” and “elevate her environment daily with how she embraces physically difficult situations with a can-do spirit.”
In her time at Vanderbilt, Fraley has emerged as a leader among her peers. She brings more than five years of experience competing at all levels.
“She [Fraley] leads by example and challenges others to push themselves,” Thomas stated. “She has a leadership style that doesn’t overbear or use excessive persuasion. She simply presents opportunities to her teammates to attempt and figure out how great they can be. It’s a direct reflection on how she operates. She is able to process and develop an execution for a desired outcome through her internal creativity and determination.”
Looking back at last season
Last track and field season, Fraley was undefeated in the discus through seven meets, resetting the program record in the event twice. Along the way, she claimed the SEC discus title and East Region discus and shot put titles. At the SEC Outdoor Championships, she set a facility record with a then-personal best 62.84-meter throw in the discus. Fraley capped the NCAA season with a ninth-place finish and second-team All-America honors in the shot put.
Fraley went on to compete in the discus at the USATF Outdoor Championships where she placed fourth overall and earned a spot on Team USA to compete in the 2023 World Athletics Championships. In Budapest, she threw 59.36 meters to place sixth in Group B and 15th overall.
Training tidbit from Coach Newell
While the NCAA outdoor season spans from mid-March to early June, Fraley is preparing for an outdoor meet in October, which is generally considered track’s offseason.
“In offseason training, the volume of throws is very high as well as the overall volume in the weight room,” assistant coach John Newell explained. “I haven’t changed that for Veronica. We are still focusing on getting a high number of throws every practice.”
One difference in Fraley’s training is that she is throwing into the sector, which will allow her to “get a feel for how the discs are flying.” Normally, the throwing volume would be done into a net.
Learning and looking forward
Reflecting on the World Championships, Fraley has set a goal to execute what she’s done in practice and to have fun.
“I think I’ve learned that I just need to compete,” she said. “Nerves and excitement and anxiety are natural, but I want it to fuel me for the meet instead of hinder me. I’m most excited for the overall experience. I love to meet new people and see my international friends that will also compete there. I’m looking forward to good food, some sightseeing, and of course, another opportunity to showcase my talent in the ring.”
The 2023 Pan American Games will be Oct. 20 to Nov. 5 in Santiago, Chile. Fraley will compete in the women’s discus final Oct. 30 at 2:30 p.m. CT. The competition will be broadcast on the Panam Sports Channel.
Photos by Vanderbilt Athletics and USA Track & Field