Girls Track: After not qualifying for Hoosier State, Merrillville’s McClinton has extra motivationNakel McClinton of Merrillville High School competes in the shot put at this years Indiana State Track & Field Finals. | Nicholas Demille~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 9, 2012 8:52PM
MERRILLVILLE — It wasn’t like Nakel McClinton really needed it, but it still managed to serve a purpose for the Merrillville thrower.
McClinton, who placed second in discus at last year’s state meet, found herself with a little extra motivation this spring.
“This season was the first time I didn’t qualify for the Hoosier State Relays (in the shot), so that gave me a wake-up call that nothing is guaranteed,” she said. “That gave me extra motivation to work out harder, so that in the end, I can reach my goals.”
In all fairness to McClinton, though, the main reason she didn’t qualify for HSR was the fact she changed her throwing style from glider to spinner.
“When you switch techniques, it takes a while to adjust,” she said.
“Yes, I was disappointed I didn’t qualify, but I don’t like to make excuses for anything I do. Instead, it motivated me.”
It seems like McClinton always manages to uncover a silver lining from any situation.
“I never really had a good meet at Purdue (HSR’s venue) anyway,” the Indiana University recruit smiled.
“I’ve had seven meets there and I’ve had only one good meet. I never got a call, e-mail, or anything from them. That’s fine, though. I’m glad to be going to IU.”
It seems Purdue’s loss, is IU’s gain.
“It’s all meant to be,” McClinton said. “Maybe it will make for a better story at the end of the season. I don’t know.”
McClinton knows a lot about good stories.
She’s sports editor of the ‘The Mirror’ — the school newspaper. She plans to major in Sports Management at IU and has dreams of one day working for ESPN The Magazine.
For the time being, though, McClinton is concentrating on finishing her high school career with a championship season.
“My goals are to throw over 150 this year in the disc,” she said. “In the shot, my goal is to break my own record — so I guess 43-2 — and place in the top seven. I’ve had a good season in shot, and I’ve had a good season in disc before, but I’ve never really had a complete, overall good season, so that’s my goal.”
It’s a goal Pirates’ throws coach Louie Lopez wants to help her achieve.
“She’s healthier this year, and on top of that, lifting is going very well,” Lopez said. “As soon as we start tapering off on lifting, I would expect for her throws to start really jumping up and improving.
So hopefully, we see some good things and stay healthy. If that’s the case, we’ll have a very good shot at it. She had a very good shot at it last year, but I think maybe better this year.”
While McClinton works extremely hard in the weight room and in her events to be the best, she’s an exceptional student, too. She ranks 10th in a class of 544 and carries an impressive 3.85 GPA in AP classes.
“I try to be the best student-athlete I can be overall,” said McClinton, who proudly claims Maya Moore, former University of Connecticut All-American, and National Player of the Year, as her role model.
“I love her,” she said. “She carries herself with such poise and been a winner at all levels. Her grades are good, too. She was Academic Player of the Year. She’s just awesome.”
McClinton said her work ethic is something she’s always worked hard to maintain.
“You can never settle — even if you’re at the top,” she said.
“Someone is always working harder and practicing harder, so you’ve got to be on your ‘A’ game all the time. I’m not sure, but I think LeBron James said: ‘Whenever you’re not practicing, someone else is.’ ”
Realizing that, McClinton won’t be outworked.
“I think she’s going to do everything in her power to get down there again,” Pirates’ head track coach Jeff Fairbairn said. I don’t think there’s a chance she won’t put herself in a position to do well at state. I think this year she puts both events together.”