Kansans face the best high school thrower in the country at the KU Relays

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KSNW) — Every spring, the best high school track and field athletes in and around Kansas compete at the University of Kansas Relays. A number of records were broken over the past weekend, including the boys’ pole vault, discus, and shot put.

One week after launching the longest shot put throw in the nation this year (73 feet and 3.75 inches) at a meet in Jefferson City, Missouri, Jackson Cantwell of Nixa, Missouri, broke a pair of throwing records at the 101st KU Relays, the 10th edition of the relays held at Rock Chalk Park on the west side of Lawrence.

On Friday morning, Cantwell heaved the discus 205 feet and 4 inches to break the KU Relays meet record and the national sophomore record. The second-place throw was over 19 feet short of Cantwell’s mark.

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Saturday morning, the track and field athletes were greeted by chilly temperatures in the mid-40s along with a northern wind. Not the perfect conditions for the boys’ shot put, throwing straight into the wind.

Cantwell set his sights on breaking the meet’s 44-year-old shot put record, set in 1980 by Clint Johnson (67 feet and 9 inches).

“It’s my toughest meet I go to every year. It’s just the most competition. It’s almost like the Midwest championships,” said Cantwell. “It’s got Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska. Like, everyone comes to it. It’s a big meet.”

Cantwell stands out in the crowd of 30 competitors. He’s a 6 foot 8 inch tall, 290-pound, 15-year-old sophomore. He’s also a straight-A student.

“When he threw 73 feet last week, I saw it. It was all over social media,” said Matrix Eames of Goddard. “He’s a great kid. He’s a specimen. I mean, to be a sophomore being 6-8. To be that big at that age and throw as far as he is, he’s doing great things. His dad was an Olympic shot putter. His mom is an Olympic athlete as well. He’s a kid who’s got everything going for him.”

That’s right. Jackson is the son of former World Champion Christian Cantwell. He won the silver medal in the shot put in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He took fourth in the 2012 Olympics in London. Jackson’s mother, Teri, was an Olympic thrower as well.

“It’s a little intimidating. You know, you kind of walk in. It can sometimes be a little bit demoralizing because, you know, you want to take first, and sometimes you just kind of got to be real with yourself. I kind of walked in, and I decided, you know, I’m going have a day as good as I can,” said Eames, whose personal record throw is 54 feet and 4 inches.

Eames finished 11th with a throw of 51 feet and 11.75 inches.

Cantwell, who admitted he doesn’t like to throw in cold conditions, fouled two of his first five throws. Then came his sixth and final attempt.

“Sixth throw, I finally got a hold of one. Pretty good setup. About 21, 21-03, I think it was in meters. Sixt-nine feet even. So, I’ll take that for sure. It was a pretty good way to end it,” said Cantwell of his record-breaking effort.

His 69-feet beat the 44-year-old record by more than a foot (15 inches).

“I mean, in the back of my mind, I knew I just wanted to get that (record) this year so that next year, I could just like try to beat my own record again. Just see how far I can get for that,” said Cantwell.

Eames said he picked up a few pointers from watching Cantwell.

“Explosiveness. The kid benches a house. He’s very strong. You might not see it, but his quickness and his explosiveness is really what makes him good. You know, being able to be 6-8, you know, 300-plus pounds. He moves like a cat. It’s something rare. It’s something you don’t see every day,” said Eames.

Cantwell has played football and basketball and competed in track through his first two years of high school. He’s started at left tackle on the football team for two seasons. He’s rated as the number-one offensive line prospect in the country in the Class of 2026.

He has offers from KU, Kansas State University, and his father’s alma mater, Mizzou. He also has offers from the best programs in the SEC, the Big 10, and Notre Dame.

Four years from now, when the summer Olympics roll back around, Cantwell will probably be playing left tackle somewhere. Will we see him follow in his parent’s Olympic footsteps?

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“It’s just gonna be. I think that’d be too tough, honestly. I think I’m just gonna stick with it (track and field) while I can. I guess if I somehow like had enough time to get there, I’d like to give it a shot. I just don’t foresee that,” he said. “I honestly wish I did. I’d love to. I’d just have to be realistic with that. I just don’t think I’d be ready by that point. I don’t know of any 20-year-old in the world who can throw shot put at that point that far out.”

Cantwell says he will turn 16 the day after the Missouri State Track and Field Meet ends.

A Kansan who’s going to compete in college at KU set a new KU Relays record. Bryce Barkdull, a senior at Andover Central High School, broke the meet record in the boys’ pole vault with a clearance of 17 feet and 7 inches.

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