Senior Sendoff: NW Rankin's CJ Clayton

For this week's Milesplit Mississippi Senior Sendoff, we are featuring none other than CJ Clayton of Northwest Rankin HS!

One of the top hurdlers in the state, he will be taking his talents to Hattiesburg, Miss where he will continue to hurdle for the Golden Eagles at the University of Southern Mississippi. 

Clayton had a stellar high school career boasting PRs of 14.99 in the 110mH and 39.88 in the 300mH.

In the 2021 outdoor track and field season, Clayton dominated both the 110mH and 300mH, carrying his momentum all the way to two podium finishes at the 2021 MHSAA 6A State Championships, placing third in the 110mH and runner-up in the 300mH on the way to a PR. 

RESULTS: 2021 MHSAA 6A Track and Field Championships

He carried his fabulous run of form into his senior season, where he once again medaled in the 110mH, placing second at the 2022 MHSAA 6A State Championships. 

RESULTS: 2022 MHSAA 6A Track and Field Championships

Clayton will be a valuable addition to the hurdles squad at Southern Miss. Their top performer is Landon Chalden of Biloxi, Miss. who holds an impressive PR of 51.34 in the 400mH 

Once Clayton arrives on campus in the fall, he will be majoring in conservation biology, which is the study of conserving nature and the earth's biodiversity, which is aimed to protect species, habitats, and ecosystems from extinction

We asked Clayton some of his questions and insight into his high school running careers, what he enjoys about running, and the advice he would give to younger athletes on their journey.

Check them out below!

Q: Explain your track and field journey... (How did you get into running, how did your senior season go, and how did you get connected with the college that you are going to?)

A: I started off as an unattached athlete during the summer for track and field.Over time I joined a track team called Peak Performance Track Club where I learned just about everything to track and field.

Later, I began to run for my school, Northwest Rankin High School, where I learned how to keep my academics, social life, and athletics balanced. My junior and senior is where I began to look for schools that would best help me grow in the future. At first, I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere till I kept digging through the NCSA app which helped me discover more schools that fit my interest in the medical field.

During senior year, after the 300m Hurdles, I met the University of Southern Mississippi Coach. We spoke about how school would be and what to expect. After the state meet during my senior year, I came to the conclusion that I would take the next step in my academic career and athletic career by signing to the University of Southern Mississippi.

Q: What is your most memorable meet/race and why?

A: The 300m hurdles during the south state track meet my junior year would have to be the most memorable race. The time sheet said everyone was about neck and neck for how the race would end. As the race was about to end it was me and three other runners who were side by side close to the finish line. Two of them got past me, but on the last hurdle, they both fell over. I finished in the top three, which gave me a lot of mixed feelings.

Q: Out of all your high school achievements, which one means the most to you and why?

A: The regional meet my junior year would have to be when I felt like I had made a big achievement. I've been trying to run somewhere in 14 sec that year in the 110m hurdles. Finally, that regional meet is when I ran a 14.99 in the 110m hurdles. I thought it was crazy because I just barely made it.

Q: If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you change, if anything?

A: I honestly wouldn't change anything, because I wouldn't be where I am in life now without these past events. If I could go back I'd go through more training and try out new things to see where that would put me.

Q: Who is somebody that you look up to/someone that helped you along your journey to get you where you are today?

A: There isn't really someone I look up to, but multiple people. Everyone such as family, friends, and athletes have played a part in my journey being an athlete. They've shown me how to be courageous at times when I'm doubtful. Many have also taught me to let go of anxiety before I perform in an event.

Q: What will you miss the most?

A: I believe what I'd miss most is honestly everything in high school. You only get to experience it once in a lifetime and not everyone can do that.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to the younger athletes that are just getting started on their journey?

A: Even if things seem bad now or you feel like you're not getting anywhere, continue to move forward and work harder than before. Everyone develops differently, find your path and stick with it. God has all sorts of plans set out for your journey.