COLLEGE STATION, Tx ULM senior Alton Clay put the finishing touches on his remarkable indoor season by placing second in the weight throw at the 2018 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships Saturday afternoon (March 10). With his performance, Clay becomes the 71st All-American in ULM program history.
Clay established himself early with a heave of 71-10 in the opening round, grabbing a lead over Florida's AJ McFarland (71-3 1/2) and Penn State's David Lucas (70-9). He followed that with a 73-4 1/2 toss on his second attempt and maintained the edge over Lucas (73-1 3/4).
With momentum gained from his first two tosses, Clay enjoyed a 75-2 3/4 heave on his third attempt, holding off stiff competition from Lucas, who answered with a throw of 74-11 1/4.
The two-man battle continued in the fourth round and Lucas took his first lead with a toss of 75-6 1/4 as Clay failed to improve upon his third-round distance.
Lucas managed to improve on his distance in the fifth round, with a heave of 78-9 3/4, while Clay slipped to third after another unsuccessful attempt to improve his best mark. N.C. State's Josh Davis vaulted from sixth place to second with a throw of 75-3 1/4 (22.94m), and Alabama's Daniel Haugh emerged as a contender, advancing from ninth into fourth place at 74-11 (22.83).
Clay returned to his previous form in the decisive sixth round and closed out the event with a toss of 75-4 (22.96m) to claim second place. Lucas took home top honors, thanks to his overall top mark of 78-9 3/4 (24.02m) from the fifth round.
"I'm so proud of and happy for Alton," ULM head track & field coach J.D. Malone said. "He has worked so hard the past five years to get here. Coach (Stephen) Saenz did a tremendous job guiding him to this level.
"The competition today was spectacular, with four or five lead changes. Alton really responded in the moment, and he's such a quality man of character that it makes today's performance so special. It's heartwarming, especially after what he has gone through with his dad passing away (on May 5, 2016). I'm so happy for him."
"It means the world to me," Clay said. "I had several good practices leading up to today, so I just wanted my motion to be nice and easy and to throw far. I've been dealing with some nagging pain in the upper back and lower neck, but our physical therapist helped make sure I was ready to go today.
"I was confident I would throw far and secure a high finish. Consistency in performance is so important in this event. You need great confidence and mental stability. You can't get too high or too low after each throw. With that (mental) approach, if you throw with proper technique, everything else falls into place.
"I went up against the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked throwers today, and they were all over the place. I think I rattled them a little with some of my early throws."
Based upon their top distances recorded in the fifth round, Davis took third on the podium while Haugh finished fourth.