FARGO — Basketball was always the sport of choice for Akealy Moton, from the time she first started to play athletics until playing her freshman year at the University of North Dakota. It just may have not been her best sport.
So the West Fargo High School graduate transferred to North Dakota State to compete for the Bison women's track and field team. Success is already coming in clumps.
She threw the shot put 54 feet, 5¼ inches last Saturday at the Bison Open, the second-best throw in program history and 16th-best to date in the country. The decision to leave basketball appears to be already paying off.
“I’ll always miss basketball being it was the first thing, I grew up with it with my mom and dad,” Moton said. “But at the same time, I’m happy with where I’m at.”
She’s at one of the best throwing schools in the country. Her teammate, junior Bailey Retzlaff from Carrington, N.D., won the Bison Open shot put with a toss of 55-11¼ and has the eighth-best throw in the country. She’s got the top throw in NDSU history at 56-4¾ set at the Thundering Herd Classic last month.
The Bison lead the country in the shot put and weight throw in calculations by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The “event squad” rankings average the best performances from the top four throwers at each school in each event.
“It’s just so good to be able to throw with girls with such high IQs about the sport and have so much potential,” Moton said. “We compete against each other in practice and it helps us improve even more.”
Moton was a high school scoring machine at West Fargo, averaging 25.7 points her senior year. She played in 15 games for the Fighting Hawks last season, averaging 2.5 points and 2.3 points while averaging 9.5 minutes of playing time per game.
In high school, she was also a six-time state champion in track, winning three titles each in the shot put and javelin. She’s considered a redshirt freshman with the Bison track and field team.
“After being at UND for a year, I just realized basketball there wasn’t for me,” she said.
The NDSU track staff recruited Moton when she was at West Fargo. She said they told her if basketball doesn’t work out to give them a call.
“And that’s what I did and now I’m here,” Moton said.
The learning curve has been intense. She admits to not knowing much about throwing technique in high school, more or less gliding back with the shot put and tossing it.
“I don’t even know if I knowing anything about it yet,” Moton said. “It can be hectic at times because you get so much information but at the same time, it’s like, oh my gosh, I know something now.”
At NDSU, she’s been under the watchful eye of assistant coach Justin St. Clair, the architect behind NDSU’s national stature in the throws. NDSU men’s thrower Payton Otterdahl has the top shot put throw in the world ahead of throwers from Czech Republic and Romania.
“Throwing next to Payton some days in practice, I was like, yeah, make me look like nothing,” Moton said. “It’s so cool to be able to be around people that throw 69 and 70 feet. They’re killing it.”
The top four Bison shot put throwers have all exceeded 51 feet so far this season. No other school in NCAA Division I has four who have exceeded 48 feet. The Bison throwers certainly have potential for bigger marks, with Moton seemingly having a sky’s-the-limit mentality.
“I feel like, yes, I still have a lot to learn about throwing, mostly with technique” she said. “I still have a bunch to learn.”