It seemed that Coach Henri Whitehead was more nervous than McDonald County's Peyton Barton before the discus event at the Missouri Class 4 State Track and Field Championships. He was more excited than Barton after the McDonald County senior vaulted to ninth place, and out of the medals to fifth place with a personal best throw of 153-0 feet on his last throw of his high school career.
It's not that Barton wasn't nervous and excited, but after playing quarterback for the Mustang football team the past two years and leading numerous two-minute drills, any pressure Barton felt was handled with a calm determination.
"It was a great experience being able to come to state and compete," Barton said. "It was a lot of fun. I knew what I had to do on that last throw and, if I didn't do it, I would have been mad. I knew that I could do better than I had done so far. It feels great to be able to be all-state and get a medal."
The top eight finishers in each event earn all-state honors. Barton is the first McDonald County athlete to earn all-state honors since McDonald County went from Class 3 to Class 4 several years ago.
Barton's achievement this season is all the more remarkable since he hadn't picked up a discus since he threw one time in the seventh grade. He was recruited to the track team by coaches Henri Whitehead and Chris Kane.
"I knew Peyton was athletic, but this is the first time he has been able to demonstrate on an individual platform how really good he is," Whitehead said. "In addition to his athleticism, this guy was clutch in the biggest meets at the biggest times. They don't do sports stories this good. This is how exciting he was and the kind of person he is. He did not fold ever this year. He is the epitome of mental toughness. I am so proud of him right now I am shaking."
Kane serves as the throwing coach (discus, shot put and javelin) for the Mustangs.
"I am super proud of this guy," Kane said. "He has worked unbelievably hard the whole year. He has come every day with a workmanlike attitude. He does everything you could ask of a kid. I just wish I had him for another couple of years. At the beginning of the year, he was only able to throw in the 120s.To come out here in the last couple of meets and throw 147 and then 153 at state is quite an accomplishment. That's good stuff. Hopefully, he is going to go on and throw in college."
Barton appeared to be a lock to advance from the preliminaries to the finals (9 out of 16 qualifiers make the finals) after finishing in third place in the first heat with a throw of 142-3. But in the second heat, six throwers topped 150 feet, leaving Barton in the ninth and final qualifying spot.
Throwing first in the finals, Barton failed to improve on his qualifying effort with throws of 140-3 and 139-9. But on his last throw, Barton unleashed his best throw ever. It was easy to see he passed eighth place of 145-7, but not until the distance was announced did Barton and his supporters, including several students who made the trip to Jefferson City (who cheered the loudest), know just how far he moved up in the standings.
The discus was scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. on May 25, but a two and a half hour rain delay, moved the event back to about 5 p.m. Soon after the event was finished, Barton joined the seven other medalists, including winner Nathan Swadley of Willard with a throw of 189-3, on the medal stand before the packed stands at Jefferson City High School.
"That felt amazing," Barton said of the medal ceremony. "I had no idea that my year would end like this."Sports on 05/31/2018
Print Headline: Barton Places Fifth With Career Best