Meet the elite Nixa discus thrower you haven’t heard of


When Nixa sophomore Jackson Cantwell is not throwing the shot or discus, he’s serving as the unofficial hype man for his classmate and teammate Hayden Mays.

“I say it all the time [Hayden’s] probably the most overshadowed athlete to come out of any area ever,” Jackson said.

As Hayden’s teammate, Jackson is the one casting the shadow. That’s because Jackson owns the No. 1 shot put mark of any high schooler in the nation, and ranks 1st nationally in discus among sophomores. Meanwhile, Hayden isn’t far behind, as the third-ranked sophomore in the nation in discus.

“It’ll only be once in probably a lifetime that you have the top two kids who are going to throw the shot put and the disc,” said Nixa throwing coach Kelly Fields.

Fields says he’s reminded of the brilliance of his sophomore duo at every meet.

“When we throw the shot we look up and it’s just packed like normally it is for the 100-meter or something like that,” Fields said. “Everybody is there to see history be made.”

There have been meets when Hayden sets a new school record throwing the shot put or the discus, only for that mark to be beaten by Jackson. Hayden says that’s just fine with him.

“It’s great, honestly,” Hayden said, “As cool as it would be to have those records, competing with him every day. He’s the one who got me into the sport in the first place.”

Jackson remembers the day like it was yesterday.

“In 7th grade, I just told him to come out because I wanted to have someone I knew come out,” Jackson said. “He got pretty good and then he did AAU that summer. And that was when he really started taking off and loving the sport.”

And in just Hayden’s fourth year in the sport, Jackson says the sky is the limit for his friend.

“The general philosophy is that the top 25 guys in the nation are scholarship-level guys in track and field,” he said. “He’s on the edge of that for sure. I mean, 186 feet as a sophomore. There are some guys that go Division I who have that as a senior. So I don’t think he knows how good he’s going to be yet.”

“Seeing him, especially him being above me, it pushes me to hit these marks,” Hayden said. “It pushes me to think I can hit that too. I can keep getting better. I can keep pushing the limits of what I thought I could before.”

And Hayden is having that effect on the rest of his teammates too.

“I wish our whole team was like him,” Fields said.

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