COLUMBIA — Missouri sophomore javelin thrower Macauley Garton found himself in second place with one throw remaining in last weekend’s Crimson Tide Invitational in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
He trailed Penn State’s Michael Shuey, who had just unleashed a 69.04-meter throw on his final attempt. Garton, whose personal record before the weekend was 65.26 meters, understood he would have to surpass Shuey’s final mark to win the event.
Then, just before he was due up for a final time, Garton did something strange.
“I was smiling because I knew I could beat this kid,” Garton explained. “I knew I could go out there and throw what I needed to throw.”
The able-bodied 6-foot-4 sophomore stepped up to the runway, javelin in hand. He picked up more and more speed with each step, then rotated his body signaling his release point. In one fluid, powerful motion Garton threw the javelin as if he were throwing a Hail Mary pass.
When an official read off the final results, Garton had won with a 69.56-meter throw.
“He needed to throw his lifetime best to win the meet, and he did it,” Missouri head track and field coach Brett Halter said. “That’s big-time.”
Halter added, “It was exciting to see all the technical elements come together.”
For Garton, strength and speed have never been an issue. He started two years at quarterback for Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kansas.
“He was a pro-style drop step quarterback,” Halter said.
At a Kansas State football camp before his senior year, Garton showed enough promise that football coach Bill Snyder called him into his office. The longtime Kansas State coach expressed the Wildcats’ interest in Garton.
That year Mill Valley High School had changed its offense to a spread passing attack. It would be the perfect opportunity for Garton to display his seemingly robotic arm for Division I programs. But two games into the season, Garton knew something was wrong when a pack of defenders awkwardly wrestled him to the ground. His left kneecap was dislocated.
“That was it for football,” Garton said.
In a single play, Garton’s college football hopes vanished. He was out for the season.
When his knee cap fully healed in the spring, Garton turned his attention to track and field. He had thrown the javelin since his freshmen year and similar to Garton's reputation as a quarterback, was known for his rocket arm.
That spring he won the Kansas Relays in javelin and was named the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year for boys track and field.
Halter, in his 18th year as Missouri’s throws coach, recognized the physical specimen he had in Garton. To get to the next level, Halter knew Garton needed to refine his technique. So the two started to work on retooling Garton's approach on his first day at Missouri.
Although it’s still a work in progress, Halter saw major improvement last weekend.
“That retooling process has been a year and a half of work, so it was exciting to see some of that take place at Alabama,” Halter said.
Halter knows technique is something that can be taught. Arm strength like Garton’s cannot.
“I’d love to get a hold of Chase Daniel,” Halter said.
For now, Halter will have to settle for Garton. The sophomore with the rocket right arm might be the next best thing.