Photos By Hillary Ehlen
When you look at Akealy Moton’s track & field career on paper, it seems very impressive. She has accomplished what many track & field athletes dream of over the course of their careers. Moton is an NDSU school record holder, an NCAA qualifier, the Summit League’s Field Athlete of the Year and the Conference Championships Field MVP.
Moton achieved all of that and more in just one year of competition at North Dakota State.
Track & field was not even her original route into the college ranks. The sophomore originally committed to play basketball at the University of North Dakota and spent one season in Grand Forks. North Dakota State and a career in track & field were in Moton’s peripheral throughout her true freshman season at UND.
Bison throws coach Justin St. Clair had recruited Moton when she was a stand out at West Fargo High School. While basketball was her original choice, one cannot help but be impressed by Moton’s prep career as a Packer. She still holds the North Dakota state record in the shot put and is second in state history in the javelin. Add to that, six high school state championships and Moton is one of the most decorated athletes in the state’s history.
With the familiarity with St. Clair and NDSU, Moton opted to transfer into the Bison throws program before last season. “When I knew I wasn’t going to play basketball anymore at UND, I remember coach [St. Clair] always saying that if I got to that type of situation, he’d always be one call away,” Moton said of her decision to transfer. “That was my next step and see what I could do in track.”
That choice has turned into a life-changing move for Akealy Moton. Spending much of the offseason training and learning, Moton hit the ground running in her freshman season last year.
During the indoor season, she ended up throwing the shot put the third farthest in NDSU history. She was the conference’s runner-up in the event and missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships by two spots. Moton did all of this after taking an entire year off from track & field.
The sophomore only elevated her performance when the outdoor season began. Not only did she qualify for the NCAA Championships in both the shot put and javelin, but she also dominated the Summit League in both events. Moton was the Summit League champion in the shot put and finished runner-up in the javelin. She captured NDSU’s outdoor school shot put record at the conference meet. Moton then broke that record over the next two meets (her best sits at 57-3.5).
Moton performed well on the national stage as well. She finished fifth in the shot put and 20th in the javelin. All of this success came as a surprise to many, especially considering Moton was in her first year on campus.
“I was learning a lot of things and do still have a lot of things to learn. Competing in those types of atmospheres and that high of level coming from high school to college track was something that was very intense, to say the least,” she said. “It was definitely a good experience and it was a lot of fun.”
Those performances are certainly a testament to Moton’s work ethic and drive to get better each day. It also shows just how good coach Justin St. Clair is at developing high-caliber student-athletes. While Moton was a very successful thrower in high school, she says she has improved her technique tenfold since coming to NDSU.
“I’ve definitely improved the most in shot put. Mainly because there is more technique and more to learn about technique than in high school,” she said. “Getting the basics of technique down was a big improvement for me, in my opinion.”
While there are certain technicalities and nuances to every throwing event, Moton finds herself at a bit of an advantage. She says shot put and javelin are similar yet different in many respects. However, her focus on technique translates well to both events, no matter what she is throwing.
“Shot put and javelin are kind of related for me. I have to make sure I keep my upper body back for as long as I can when I throw both,” she said. “That way, you stay long for both so they do kind of go hand in hand sometimes. That makes it a little easier on me.”
With just her sophomore campaign on the horizon, Moton has high aspirations. The amount of success she enjoyed last season may leave many puzzled as to how she sets goals for 2019-20. In her mind, if she continues to learn and grow the technical side of her throwing, she’ll hit higher marks as a sophomore.
“Personally, I want to get more of the little things down in technique. I’ve learned the basics to an extent, but there are still a lot of little things I need to improve on,” Moton said. “I also want to go off what I have done and improve in certain distances and aspects that maybe I wasn’t thinking about last season.”
It may sound weird, but Akealy Moton is still incredibly raw. She admits to still having plenty to learn when it comes to throwing the shot put and javelin. That should boggle the minds of any casual viewer given her success in 2018-19.
Yet, those marks she set last season are stepping stones to where she wants to be. Akealy Moton wants to be a repeat conference champion. She wants to be a national champion as well. Moton even hints at wanting to be an Olympian one day. Those are all stepping stones on the path to greatness.
Akealy Moton is just getting started on that path.