A freshman at Nixa has burst upon the varsity scene and is shining brightly in the discus, albeit in an incredibly anonymous manner.
Freshman phenom Jackson Cantwell has become a headliner at every Eagles meet since his high school debut, but teammate and classmate Hayden Mays can also be categorized as a freshman phenom.
“I've been saying he's probably the most criminally underrated person in the area,” Cantwell said. “People just didn't know about him, but they're going to find out sooner than later.”
Cantwell and Mays finished 1-2 in the discus at last week’s COC Track Meet. Cantwell turned in a heave of 176-9, while Mays posted a throw of 164-4.
No one else in the field reached 150-0.
Get used to it COC. Cantwell and Mays should only get better and stronger, given their diligence to their craft and the fact they have each other to train with on a daily basis.
They also figure to anchor Nixa’s offensive line on the gridiron over the next three years.
Mays’ devotion to football is such that he nearly balked at an invite to try out for track in middle school.
“I was almost reluctant to do it because I wanted to focus on football,” he said. “Now, I really enjoy it.”
Mays had the unique benefit of having a teammate the likes of Cantwell to mentor him. Cantwell, the son of an Olympic shot putter, already is a polished veteran of the sport, having competed nationally for a handful of years.
“In seventh grade, I told (Mays) he should come out for track and he's loved it ever since,” Cantwell said. “I remember when he first came out and was almost throwing the discus backward. He almost hit my Dad on day one. It's hard to believe two years later he's the second-best freshman in the country in the discus (according to Milesplit.com). It's crazy to see the growth. I'm excited to see where he goes down the road.
“He took a different path than me,” Cantwell added. “It’s been a lot different journey, but we're both trying to go to the same place."
“Right away, it was rough,” Mays said. “I wasn't throwing very far and was discouraged. Jackson and his Dad told me I've just got to keep going and I started improving.”
Mays has dived head-first into the event, reading, watching and listening to everything he can find about the discus.
Both Cantwell and Mays report Mays’ focus to details regarding technique is exceptional.
“That's why I'm a little bit closer to Jackson than I normally would be because he's a good amount stronger than me,” Mays said.
Mays has become confident enough to offer Cantwell advice during practices, if needed.
“I see his tendencies because we've been training together for so long,” he said. “It's great to push each other and see what we can do.”
“He's very technique-focused and helps remind me I need to focus on some things. He has an eye for it. He's very gifted in that aspect,” Cantwell said. “He almost knows as much about the sport as I do, and he's only been in for three years.”
The towering presence of Cantwell and Mays is attracting more and more attention to the discus and shot put. Cantwell also won COC gold in the shot put.
“A lot of people just focus on the running events,” Mays said. “It's been great to get more eyes on these events.”