One powerful throw two years ago can be attributed to Nashawn Dingle being a state championship contender this season.
The Jay M. Robinson shot-putter was a Cinderella story when he beat his previous mark by three feet and finished fourth at the 4A state high school meet as a sophomore.
Now a senior, Dingle's throw of 54 feet at A.L. Brown on April 7 ranks him among the top shot-putters in the state. That's impressive, considering that he never competed in track and field until two years ago.
Dingle says he didn't even know what a shot put was when he attended Northwest Cabarrus Middle and then Northwest Cabarrus High as a freshman. All he knew was football, which in fact was why he joined Robinson's track and field team as a sophomore after transferring to the school.
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He played varsity football for the Bulldogs in 10th grade and took the advice of some of his coaches when they told him that track and field would keep him in football shape.
Initially, Dingle was a sprinter for all of two meets before he realized the competition in 4A was too much for him to handle. He became curious about the shot put and asked his track and field coaches if that could be his event.
"(Assistant) coach (Lewis) Hoban said 'You might not make it because it's heavy and you have to throw it a certain distance,'" said Dingle.
But throwing is what Dingle wanted to do. He was a steady competitor despite not being as developed as the upperclassmen of the ME-CA 7 4A Conference that he was competing against.
He didn't have high expectations for himself entering the 4A Midwest regional meet that year. Dingle's heave of 45 feet, 8 inches was good enough for fourth place and a spot in the state meet.
Listening to the direction of Robinson head Coach Ricky Hedden, Dingle approached his first throw at the state meet like his life depended on it. He pushed it 50 feet, 7 inches - almost five feet farther than his regional throw.
"Everyone was counting on me," said Dingle. "It was my first time at states, and I just put all my power in the shot and everyone was shocked."
Hedden admits he was surprised.
"I'm like, 'What just happened? Is that really where I think it is?'" he said.
When Robinson's classification was realigned in 2009-10, Dingle was on his way to being one of the top 3A contenders. He was also adapting to the discus too, mostly teaching himself an undisciplined technique.
However, Dingle's junior season came to an end when he was removed from the team for disciplinary reasons. He did not compete in the regional and state meets.
"I took it very seriously," said Dingle. "Last year I let the whole team down. I think the team would have finished first place in the regionals if I would have went. I probably would have gotten first place because the guy that won threw 49 (feet) and I was throwing in the 50s."
Having another opportunity, Dingle is looking to help his team.
A couple of his teammates this year are also being counted on heavily. Senior Jordan Larson has shaved off almost 10 seconds in his 800-meter time and classmate Dominique Bellamy is carrying the load for the sprinters, while specializing in the 100 meters.
Dingle is back throwing in the 50s again this year. He broke his own school record in March at a meet at Mount Pleasant, and broke it again at A.L. Brown two weeks ago.
Dingle is looking forward to making a statement at the regional meet on May 7 and 9 and at the state meet on May 13.
After that, he hopes to play football in junior college.