Down to one last heave and facing a second-place finish, Jamaal McKinney knelt down, sent up a prayer and channeled all the positive energy and strength he could muster.
“I was thinking about God at that moment,” he said. “I asked him to let me get my best throw.”
McKinney then stepped into the thrower’s circle, whirled around and threw the shot put further than anybody at Timberland High School ever has. The sophomore’s winning mark of 54 feet, 5 inches was a school record and made him a Class 2A state champion on Saturday, May 11 at Spring Valley High School.
Runner-up William Rollins of Allendale-Fairfax briefly held the lead with a mark of 50 feet, 10 inches. McKinney came through in the clutch to get what he went to Columbia for.
“One person who helped me throughout the season is (volunteer coach) Andy Fox,” McKinney said. “We talked before the last throw and said it would be crazy if I throw something over 51. I was like I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. After I threw it, I looked at him and he was about to cry.”
He bettered that by over three feet. For good measure, McKinney’s mark would have made him a state champion in Class 1A, Class 3A and Class 4A.
He soaked it all in on the awards podium.
“It was exciting,” he said. “I achieved a goal I really wanted to achieve.”
McKinney now turns his focus to football for the Wolves, who are in the middle of spring practice this month. He’s a two-year starter on the defensive front and might be moving to inside linebacker for the 2019 season.
He’s also a two-year letterman in basketball during the winter.