A knee injury prompted Thomas McClinton to switch from college football to track and field.

Now, the Ninety Six High School graduate has completed his most successful track and field season for Catawba College.

McClinton, who recently graduated, decided not to continue as a defensive lineman for the football team after his freshman year because he said he suffered a torn lateral meniscus in his knee. He already had overcome an injury to the other knee.

“I just needed something to fill that sport,” McClinton said about turning to track and field, which he competed in during high school. “It really worked out the best for me. I was able to focus on school and get my GPA up. I was definitely happy.”

Since 2018, he has competed in the shot put, discus, and hammer and weight throws. His ability to complete the motions required for the throwing events was impressive considering both knees — particularly the cushion provided by the lateral meniscus — had been compromised by injury.

“It’s really hard mentally to get to that point,” said Don Hesprich, a Catawba assistant coach who oversees the throwers. “There’s a lot of stress on the knees.”

He taught McClinton the way to place his feet properly to minimize the stress. In the shot put, for example, McClinton switched his technique from the glide to a rotational spin to make it easier to throw.

It wasn’t until February that he competed in the javelin throw. He threw the javelin 98 feet, 11 inches in that meet, where he placed eighth.

“We were just overjoyed at the results,” Hesprich said. “We were trying to find someplace where he fit in well. The first time he ever threw the javelin was at a meet. He stepped up.”

In just three meets attempting the javelin, McClinton produced the highest finishes of his career. He placed sixth in the event at the South Atlantic Conference outdoor track and field championship, throwing a career-best 156-9 and scoring three points.

“In all honesty, I had only had about three or four practices,” he said. “That just wasn’t an event I thought I’d excel in. I really tried to focus on the shot put and discus.”

He competed most often in the shot put, and his best finish in it was seventh at an April meet. His top finish in the discus was ninth at a February meet.

“Thomas is such a great guy,” Hesprich said. “I’m really tickled it ended up this way.”

Emerald alum 10th at invitational

Previously at Emerald High, Columbia International University freshman Zac Beckom finished 10th in the 200-meter dash at the Roanoke College Invitational Challenge.

Beckom placed 14th in the 400-meter and ran the second leg of the 4x400 for the relay team, which finished fourth in the event.

Send updates about area athletes to Barbara Boxleitner at jdanddoc@gmail.com.