AU Football Signee A Star In Another Sport

Opelika, Ala.--An Auburn football signee showed again over the weekend that he is a very talented athlete.

Competing for Opelika High at the Auburn High School Invitational Track and Field meet, Zach Clayton became the first athlete in Alabama high school history to throw the discus more than 200 feet.

Clayton, the son of Auburn University assistant track and field coach Jerry Clayton, unleashed a career-best toss of 203 feet, seven inches. Last season as a junior, he set the state meet record with a toss of 189 feet, nine inches, which was 42 feet, five inches longer than the runnerup toss.

The only throw better this year by a high school athlete, a toss of 206 feet, happened at the Arcadia meet in the San Diego area at a site known for long discus throws because the prevailing winds there help give the discus lift. Clayton had considered going to that competition, but decided to stay home. The national high school record was set at that venue in 2001 by Niklas Arrhenius of Mountainview High in Orem, Utah, whose toss was 234 feet, three inches.

"California is known for its winds so you can usually get some pretty good throws out there," says Clayton, who notes that when he made his career-best toss in Auburn on Saturday the winds were calm.

Although Clayton broke his personal record by four feet, he is far from satisfied. "I am hoping to throw it 210 feet this season," he says.

Previously the football defensive end said he was going to give up track and field after he finished his senior season at Opelika High, where he is also a standout in the shot put with a best toss of 58 feet, 11 inches, which makes him the favorite to win the state championship in that event, too. Last year he won the state 6A shot title with a toss of 58 feet, 1 1/2 inches.

"I am starting to think this is something I want to keep doing in college," Clayton says of competing in the discus. "After throwing it 203, I think it would be kind of waste to quit doing it now."

Clayton plans to defend his state championships in May and later that month he will enroll at Auburn University and begin football workouts. Once he does that he won't be eligible to compete as a high school athlete on the national track scene.

If he throws in college, he will switch to a larger, heavier discus. The one used in high school weighs three pounds nine ounces and the one in college and competitions around the world, including the Olympics, weighs four pounds, six ounces.

The Auburn school record in the discus was set by two-time NCAA champion and Olympian Gabor Mate, who threw 219 feet, nine inches to set an NCAA record at a 2003 meet in San Diego.

Clayton, who is 6-3, 260 pounds, was a first team Class 6A All-State selection as a senior for Coach Spence McCracken's Opelika High football team.

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