Aug. 15, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Bill Frazier honed his craft training in heavy rawhide shoes and racing spikes bond together with tape.
Not ideal conditions for an elite runner, but Frazier's results make it impossible to tell. A four-time Big Ten Conference champion in 1962 and '63, Frazier owned the University of Iowa 800-meter run record for 50 years. He is one of five selected in the 2012 class for the National Iowa Varsity Club Athletics Hall of Fame.
"It's a heck of an overwhelming honor," Frazier said. "It's a great feeling. I loved competing for Iowa, and I made lifelong friends there."
Frazier grew up in Princeton, Iowa, a town that today has less than 900 residents. He can't tell his children that he walked 15 miles uphill to school in a blizzard, but he did have an interesting school-day experience. Because North Scott High School was being constructed, Frazier bused 4 ½ hours roundtrip each day to attend school in DeWitt. Frazier enrolled at North Scott during his junior and senior years of high school, where he trained on gravel roads and a patch of worked-up dirt around a football field.
"A lot of times I could get my workout in for track and jump on the bus and get home," Frazier said. "But if there were meets or football games, they ran a special bus for some of us to a certain point and then we had to be picked up."
After an outstanding high school career where he won a state 880-yard run championship, Frazier enrolled at the University of Iowa.
"I knew some of the fellas; I had watched Ralph Trimble and Gary Fischer run, and I knew Gary Hollingsworth was going there. I wanted to be with some of the top guys, and those were top guys at the time."
UI running sensation
In 1962, Frazier won the Big Ten indoor championship in the 600-yard dash in 1:12.2. He earned All-America honors in that event. During the outdoor season, he won the 880-yard run in 1:50.1. The following season, Frazier won the Big Ten indoor title in the 880 (1:51.8) and the outdoor title in the same event (1:50.6).
In 1963, the Hawkeyes shared the Big Ten indoor team championship with Michigan and secured sole possession of the outdoor crown.
"I will always remember the race at Purdue my sophomore year," Frazier said. "Ergas Leps ran for Michigan and he was an Olympian out of Canada. I knew that was going to be a hard race, and I knew our mile relay would be a hard race because Purdue had a tremendous quarter-miler named Dave Mills."
Frazier struggled with two major injuries during his career: a partially torn Achilles tendon in his left foot, and a hamstring injury suffered in a meet hosted by the University of Arizona.
Days after graduating from the UI with a degree in physical education, Frazier was notified that he would be drafted into military service. He enlisted in helicopter flight school and also attended electronics school. When Frazier left the service, he taught biology and physical education, and was an assistant coach for wrestling and track and field in LaCrosse, Wis.
"They said, `Since you're from Iowa, you have to know something about wrestling, so you're our assistant wrestling coach,'" Frazier said with a laugh.
After two years in education, Frazier moved to the Quad-Cities (he resides in Bettendorf), where he started in the insurance business in December 1971. He still has 49-percent stock in Frazier and Associates; his daughter owns the other 51 percent.
The track and field landscape has changed significantly since Frazier competed in the 1960s. His 800 time, however, proved unbeatable for five decades -- until NCAA outdoor runner-up Erik Sowinski surpassed the mark in 2012 (1:45.90).
"I was expecting (Sowinski) to get it this year, and he not only got it, he shattered it," Frazier said. "I called him and talked to him and invited him as a guest with my family at the (Hall of Fame) banquet. He said he would love to join us."
Frazier competed in an era before Nike and high-performance polyurethane track surfaces. Still, he posted times that if run now, would be close to qualifying for the Olympic Trials.
"Those shoes we wore were nothing compared to what I even walk in today," Frazier said. "I ran on cinder tracks. You walk out there on a new track and it's, `Oh my gosh, this is so nice.'"
The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony banquet is Friday, Sept. 14, at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. Festivities begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the induction ceremony. The Hall of Fame induction banquet is open to the public. Tickets may be purchased for $35 by sending your name and check to the National Iowa Varsity Club, ATTN: HOF Banquet, University of Iowa, 340 CHA, Iowa City, IA, 52242 by Friday, Aug. 31. For more information, call the Varsity Club office at (319) 335-9438.