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Scholar Athlete: McGruder focuses on making it to state finals in senior year

Natchez High School senior Darius McGruder, who is a member of the track and field team, practices throwing the shot put.  He hones a 3.2 GPA while playing football and track and field. (brittney lohmiller | The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez High School senior Darius McGruder, who is a member of the track and field team, practices throwing the shot put. He hones a 3.2 GPA while playing football and track and field. (brittney lohmiller | The Natchez Democrat)

Darius McGruder joined the track and field team with no prior experience but by his senior year, he has become the leader of the Natchez High School squad.

Bulldogs head track coach Larry Wesley said McGruder was rough around the edges when he showed up three years ago.

“When he first got here, he couldn’t do anything,” Wesley said. “He didn’t know much about track and field, but he developed really quickly.”

Wesley said he named McGruder one of his team captains this season because of the type of athlete he has become.

“He’s really dedicated,” Wesley said. “He’s great to work with, and he has a great attitude. He’s a great motivator as well.”

McGruder, a shot put athlete, said he knows he has a lot of weight on his shoulders this season, but his focus is on throwing the weight further than he has before.

“I want to make it to the state (championships) and do well in it,” McGruder said. “I want to become better than last year. My longest throw is 84.3 meters right now.”

With big goals in mind, the senior said he started to train extensively before the season started.

Once football season ended, where McGruder played center, defensive tackle and left tackle, he went straight into shot put training.

“I’ve been training every day after school,” he said. “I would do some drills and hit the weight room.”

Though the 6-foot-4 athlete bench presses 265 pounds, he said much more goes into the art of shot put.

“It’s more difficult than people think,” McGruder said. “There are more techniques you have to have down to know how far you can throw it.”

As McGruder has been working to perfect his technique, he has also been working to maintain a 3.2 grade-point average in the classroom.

McGruder is also a member of the National Honor Society and the 4-H Club.

Juggling multiple sports and keeping up his grades can be exhausting, McGruder said, but he knows how to manage his time.

“I just pay attention in class, and after practice, though I know I’m tired, I go home, shower and study, then go to sleep,” McGruder said. “I study for at least an hour or two a night.”

Math is something McGruder said he “just has a feel for,” and because of that, he plans to use those skills in life.

“I want to major in mechanical engineering, which I know requires a lot of math,” he said. “I’ve already been accepted into Mississippi State, it’s just a matter of financial aid.”

McGruder plans to attend MSU in the fall, and he’s waiting on his ACT score in the meantime.

He is the son of Terri and Ricky McGruder.