Cantwell Goes Long in Shot, 67-2 for State Record & US#4

Nixa's Jackson Cantwell opened his sophomore track and field season with a big bang on Friday, April 5. 

In Pittsburg, Kansas, at the Pittsburg State University Gorilla Relays, Cantwell reminded, or educated, others that he's not just a one-sport star, but a multi-sport superstar. Cantwell had a historic effort, which put him atop a Missouri All-Time list and among the country's best with nearly two months left in the season and more than two years left in his high school career. 

Cantwell started his day, and season of competition, with a victory in the discus. With the win already secured with a toss of 181-6, Cantwell launched a personal best on his sixth and final attempt. Cantwell gripped the disc and ripped off a throw of 194-6/59.28m. The mark was a personal best by just over 3 feet. The toss put him atop the Missouri season performance list and 5th on the MileSplit U.S. season performance list

Teammate and fellow sophomore Hayden Mays placed 2nd with a toss of 161-11.

In Cantwell's 2nd-ever high school meet, he won the discus and shot put at the 2023 Pittsburg State Gorilla Relays with marks of 174-6/52.86m and 61-0/18.59m.

Shot into the Record Book

Then in the shot put ring, Cantwell stamped his name in the record books. Cantwell, with an Olympic heritage, as parents Christian and Teri were both U.S. stars and Olympians in the event, started the competition with a first toss of 65-4/19.91m. That gave Cantwell a new personal record by just over a foot from his 2023 Class 5 State winning toss of 19.60m/64-3.75 and which had moved him to 5th on the Missouri prep all-time list. 

Toss #2 was measured 64-3/19.58m. Cantwell had a good series going, but it ended up being phenomenal. Toss number three showed why the shot put sector at the Licklider Track and Field facility at Jefferson City High School has been extended this year before this year's state meet.

Willard senior Marshall Swadley earned the state shot put record at the COVID-19 protocols-induced one-day, 2021 Class 4 state track and field competition. Swadley broke Booneville's Corey Jones state record from 2009, set the Class 4 state meet record, and the overall state meet record. Swadley, now competing at Southeast Missouri State University, earned the records with a 2nd toss of four (COVID-19 protocols reduced from the normal 6 for finalists) of 20.41m/66-11.5. That toss nearly hit the wooden board at the end of the shot put sector at the Honorable Robert L. Hyder Throws Area at Jefferson City High School. 

Back in Pittsburg, just across the state border, Cantwell launched a 3rd round bomb of 67-2' or 20.47 meters. The throw not only earned Cantwell the state record, but moved him to 5th on the current 2024 Outdoor MileSplit U.S. High School shot put performance list, just under 2 feet behind the national leader. 

Cantwell wasn't done, however. He followed with throws of 66-5 and 65-2 before a final attempt foul. 

Cantwell winning the 2023 Class 5 State shot put title. 

Interview with Cantwell after the 2023 PSU Gorilla Relays.

Growing up, Cantwell quickly found success as a young athlete, especially in track and field throwing events. Jackson captured his first two age-group world records as a 12-year-old in the shot and discus. He added his 3rd with the age-13 shot put mark and earned his 4th world record last April at the Kansas Relays, throwing the discus 58.33m/191-4 for the age-14 mark, six weeks before turning 15. 

Busy Boy

While Cantwell's focus has turned to track and field now, the 6-foot 8-inch, 300lb football offensive tackle, and basketball big man has been busy this past fall and winter. Cantwell earned First Team All-State and All-America honors on the gridiron as an offensive tackle. He helped Nixa to a MSHSAA Class 6 quarterfinal appearance in the fall. Cantwell then took to the court to play basketball for the Eagles. While doing so and since the end of the hoops season, Cantwell also spent lots of time getting to know coaches from top college football programs.

Coaches from across the country have made their way to Southwest Missouri and the Springfield suburb of Nixa to see Cantwell and recruit one of the highest-ranked players in the country in the 2026 class. They all do so with the hopes of eventually getting his commitment to their program. Cantwell has traveled as well, to see schools, coaches, and campuses.

Nixa is scheduled to host the Nixa Varsity Invitational on Tuesday before heading to Jefferson City for the Lickliter Relays on Saturday where Cantwell will get a chance to spin in the state meet ring at the newly extended shot put sector.

It can be a bit mind-bending to consider what might be ahead over the next handful of years for Cantwell, but it may best for track and field fans to simply watch and enjoy. 

What are the Odds?

Marshall Swadley's Willard teammate Karon Johnson can claim quite a distinction. As a sophomore in 2021, he placed 2nd at State in Class 4 behind record-setter teammate Swadley. Last Spring as a senior, he took 2nd in the shot put in Class 5 behind Cantwell. Earning the silver medal behind the top two performers in state history should be a point of pride. The Ivy Leaguer competing at Brown University now also has the distinction of finishing 2nd in a state event three straight years. Johnson was 2nd at state in Class 4 as a junior in 2022 behind Rolla's Ethan Crouch. Johnson's freshman season in 2020 was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.