Cal-San Ramon high jumper Noel Frazier just missed a state title a year ago. Seven feet could give it to him in 2012.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story ran in our May 24 edition. On June 2, Frazier completed his quest for a state title by winning gold with a jump of 6-feet, 10 1/4 inches.
By CHACE BRYSON | Editor
Noel Frazier loves basketball.
It’s the sport his two older brothers played, and what the California High senior gravitated toward playing very early on.
It’s not the sport he’s most gifted at. Nor is it the one that’s earned him a scholarship to attend Cal-Berkeley next fall. That’s track and field, and more specifically the high jump. Both of which he had to be convinced were worth trying.
“I honestly didn’t want to do it at first,” Frazier said. “I hated track and thought it was really boring.”
But it’s a funny thing: Once you realize you’re good at something, it becomes a lot less boring.
Frazier realized he was pretty good while competing at the 2010 North Coast Meet of Champions his sophomore year. Still figuring out the nuances of the event, his jumps had been hovering around 6-2 or so. But at the MOC, he hit on jumps of 6-5 and 6-7 — which was good enough for second place behind St. Mary’s-Berkeley senior Maurice Spikes and qualified him for the California Interscholastic Federation state meet.
“I didn’t even know what happened,” Frazier said reflecting back. “I was surprised at myself. After that I sort of told myself, ‘If you’re going to be more than just good at this, you might as well try to be the best you can be at it. There’s no point putting that to waste.’ It was at that point that I figured that I’d put all my energy toward this.”
The following year he reached a height of 6-11, a mark that placed him second all time on his school record list. He only needed to get to 6-8 to become the NCS champion in the event before nearly winning a state title.
He enters the 2012 Meet of Champions on May 25-26 owning the third-best jump in the state this year (6-10), according to Dyestatcal.com. As he sets to defend his NCS crown, he hopes to better that 6-10 mark and lay the ground work for a state title at the CIF meet on June 1-2 at Buchanan High in Clovis.
“Last year, I had it,” Frazier said of the state title that slipped through his fingertips and wound up being a runner-up finish. “I should’ve won. Cody Crampton (of Canyon-Anaheim) did jump a height higher than me. He out-jumped me, and I just
had to live with that. But it was a disappointment. You go that whole way, that whole season, and you don’t win. That’s my motivation for winning it this year. … No regrets.”
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Frazier ended up inside the oval after the Grizzlies’ long-time track and field coach Mark Karbo tracked him down as a freshman — more than likely in the gym — and convinced him to come out and give the sport a try.
The polite and soft-spoken Frazier had his doubts, but grudgingly accepted the invitation.
It didn’t take Frazier long to realize the learning curve for the high jump would be a steep one.
“It took me a while to figure out that it’s strictly technique,” he said. “It’s not just running from a random spot and jumping.”
Fortunately for Frazier, the newest member of the Cal High track and field coaching staff just happened to specialize in high jumps. The key would be whether Noel would want to tune him in at all times.
James Frazier was a Pac-10 champion in the high jump and a two-time All-American whose jump of 7 feet, 6 inches in 1980 remains the University of Arizona’s outdoor record. That year he ranked as one of the top three high jumpers in the country.
And before 2010, none of his four sons had shown a desire to take up high jumping. And he’d been OK with that.
“For you to be successful at whatever you do, you have to have passion for it and an internal drive,” James Frazier said. “I think every father would love to see their kid follow in their footsteps because they have experience to draw from and share with them. But everybody is not designed to run track or high jump, and I accepted that very early on in the process.”
And yet, here was Noel, giving it a try. And it was clear that he shared his dad’s talent.
“When he first started out he showed quite a bit of potential,” said James Frazier, who said his path to the high jump also originated from being coaxed off the basketball court. “He came out for his freshman year and jumped 6-2, which was exceptional for someone who didn’t have any track experience.”
But it was clear from an early standpoint that father and son would need to work together to make the coach/athlete relationship work.
“We got into it more than we should’ve.” Noel said with a smile. “At the same time, I realized it was an advantage, too. Not every athlete gets 24 hours of support at home and access to their coach at any time.”
They made it work, and the results have been obvious.
“I can’t be more pleased,” James said. “Whether he wins state or not, I think he’s done a great job.”
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Noel hasn’t conquered it yet — in practice or in a meet. He’s more than aware that it’s a height he’ll need to reach if he wants the state title.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at 7 feet, and barely miss it,” he said. “I’ve got so much height over it, but I just can’t get it.”
So what’s holding him back?
Noel claims it’s a technique flaw that involves how he positions his legs and feet after take off and doesn’t allow him to get a maximum kick once he’s in the air. It’s something he said he’s really been focused on correcting as he builds toward his final two meets.
James didn’t deny that technical issue was there, but he also pointed to something else.
“As an athlete, I tell Noel all the time that you have to walk the walk and live the talk,” said the coach who has the added perspective of a father. “Part of that is not just performing on the field, but it’s the activities you do off the field in preparation for the meet. Noel has faced some challenges on how he manages his out-of-track life in regards to eating and sleeping patterns. That’s something he’s working on, too.”
One of those things, or perhaps all of the above, may have come into play at the state meet a year ago when Noel was only able to reach 6-5 during the qualifying jumps. It was a performance that left him unseeded for the finals, and put him behind the 8-ball when it came to his showdown with Crampton.
Getting seeded as the top jumper allows that jumper to go last, a definite advantage. Crampton was able to make the most of it and pushed Frazier to No. 2 on the podium.
Crampton, now a senior, is back in the mix for the state meet this year. He’s cleared 6-11 (his winning height at state a year ago) once already this season, doing so in a March 22 dual meet against El Modena. The state’s leading mark so far belong to Miles Poullard of Colony-Ontario. Poullard jumped 7-0 as part of his league championship meet on May 3.
Which puts Noel’s focus back on that 7 foot mark.
“He’s jumped 6-10 three or four times this year,” James said. “He’s got the height for seven. He’s got the potential and strength to do it. I have no doubt.”
And if he doesn’t reach that mark, or win that state crown, Noel is adamant it won’t be for a lack of focus or effort.
This time there won’t be regrets.
“This year, there’s no messing around,” he said. “No saying, ‘Hi,’ to other jumpers. I’ll be your friend after the meet, but when the meet starts it’s going to be all business.”
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