Mark Twain senior thrower Dalton Hill overcame a tough start this season to advance to the Class 2 sectional.

Make no mistake, Dalton Hill was not pleased with the distance his discus throws traveled at the beginning of the track and field season.

For a competitor as fierce as he, this inevitably led to frustration.

Instead of crumble, the Mark Twain senior went to work.

“You become frustrated, but you've got to realize that means you've just got to put in more work, more time, to correct that little thing you're doing wrong to get the distance and the place you want to be,” Hill said.

It's that attitude that propelled the Tigers thrower into the Class 2 sectional meet this weekend, when Hill will compete in both the shot put and discus.

After being named the Eastern Missouri Conference Thrower of the Year on the merit of his conference titles in each event, he placed top three in both at the Class 2 District 2 meet last weekend. 

The standout's discus throw of 135 feet, 3 inches earned district runner-up honors. His shot put attempt of 41 feet, 1 ¾ inches proved good enough for third place. 

“At the beginning of the year I wasn't where I wanted to be,” Hill admitted. “But I've corrected my technique on both shot and disc a little bit here and there, put in a lot of work and been able to achieve the numbers I set for my goal at the beginning of the season.”

At Mark Twain's first meet of the season, Hill threw just over 41 feet in the shot put. Disappointed, he set out to work on his footwork and speed across the ring. It paid off. 

At the EMO championship, he broke through with a distance of 45 feet even — his personal record.

His attempt of 41 feet, 10 ¾ inches at districts was a bit of a letdown but was enough to survive and advance.

“We just need to keep doing what we're doing, fine tune little things and hopefully it translates to Saturday,” Mark Twain coach Karl Asbury said.

Hill also set his personal best in the discus with his strong showing at the district meet. Thanks to improving his balance and release point, the senior has improved his discus distance by more than 20 feet since the start of the season. 

“He's throwing his best discus that he's thrown in the two years I've been here,” Asbury said. “He threw a 135 on his very last throw (at districts), and he had to have that to get going. He unleashed it. If he can throw that again, he has a pretty good shot at making it in discus.”

Asbury said Hill, who is committed to Missouri Western State University to play football, is an example of how success can come from persistent training and a willingness to work. 

“He's a fierce competitor,” Asbury said. “When discus wasn't going as well and kids were passing him, he was getting kind of upset. I said we've got to clear our head and just throw it, and that's we he did this last meet.”

Hill will join teammate Devin Neff in representing the Mark Twain boys at the sectional meet, which is set for Saturday in Hillsboro.

Neff is making a return to sectionals in the 3,200 meters after placing 10th at state in the race a year ago. He earned second in the event at the district meet last weekend.

The junior speedster also will run the 1,600 meters after winning the district title last weekend with a time of 4:53.79.

“It's a very awesome moment for me because I've made it to sectionals all three years, but I'm very excited to go and run against all the other boys and be competitive with them and do my best,” Neff said. 

Neff said his mindset entering the sectional is the same as for any other race. 

“I just go in there and think, 'Hey, I've got to be the best,'” he said. “That's not trying to be in any way cocky whatsoever, I just set my mind to it and go out there and work to get better and get ready for races like on Saturday.” 

While Asbury would have liked to see more of his boys advance to the sectional round, he believes both Hill and Neff are in good position to advance through to state.

As for Hill, he has one mission in mind.

“Hoping to advance, but I want to go out there and beat my personal best,” the senior said. “What motivates me is beating my personal best every time. I want to be the very best that I can personally be and go as far as I can personally go.

“I want to work and work until I achieve what I want to achieve. I know it's not going to be given to me.”