FARGO — Akealy Moton’s dog, Nala, has become a valuable training partner during the coronavirus pandemic, which has put the sports world on hold.

The North Dakota State thrower goes on daily runs with the Cane Corso Pitbull mix.

"At least twice a day minimum," Moton said with a laugh. "She’s a very high-maintenance girl."

This spring, Moton was expected to be one of top competitors in the NCAA Division I women’s shot put after earning first-team All-American honors in the event outdoors last season as a redshirt freshman. Moton also hoped to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials, which were slated for this summer.

The NCAA outdoor season was canceled and the Olympic Trials rescheduled until June 2021 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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North Dakota State sophomore Akealy Moton was in position to have another strong outdoor season in the women's shot put. Richard Svaleson / Bison Athletics
North Dakota State sophomore Akealy Moton was in position to have another strong outdoor season in the women's shot put. Richard Svaleson / Bison Athletics

"What I’ve been trying to keep in mind is that I’m trying to worry about the things that I can control," said Moton, a West Fargo High School graduate. "I can use this time at home to try and work on the little things, like technical things and stuff like that, to try and be better and ready for next year."

Moton owns both indoor and outdoor NDSU shot put records. She set the outdoor standard at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last June in Austin, Texas, with a mark of 57 feet, 3 1/2 inches to finish in fifth place. The indoor record came earlier this year with a toss of 57-9 1/2.

"I think she’s a national champion contender down the road, I think she’s that good," Bison head women’s track coach Stevie Keller said. "It speaks volumes for a local kid to do as well as she’s doing here on the national level. She’s got a bright future."

Moton was set to compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March in Albuquerque, N.M., when the NCAA canceled all remaining winter and spring championships. Moton was ranked fourth in the shot put at 57-9 1/2. The meet was scheduled to start March 13 and was canceled the day before.

"We were putting on our shoes for practice," Moton said of when the news broke. "It’s definitely disappointing being that you put all this time in, in the offseason. You’re at practice, you’re at weights, you’re doing all the little things, doing all the extras. You do all this work just for your season to be cut short."

With no access to workout facilities at NDSU, Moton has done home exercises at her Fargo apartment where she’s also worked on her technique. She’s used a wall in her apartment as a toeboard for some technique work.

"If I’m not here, I’m usually outside with her, my dog, or trying to find some open area to do sprints or anything like that," said Moton, who in recent weeks has also helped with landscaping work on properties for her mom, a local realtor.

Moton said she’s done squats using Nala, who weighs around 100 pounds, as extra resistance.

"She’ll let me hold her, while I squat with her," Moton said. "She’s a big girl."

Moton has tried to remain positive, even though she misses going to practice, weight training, being around her teammates and competing at meets. She plans to use the extra year of eligibility for outdoor track that spring athletes were granted by the NCAA.

"Being restricted from that is hard, but it’s out of my control," Moton said. "I feel this is a time where you can take advantage of the free time to try and get as much work done as you can. It gives you more time to go into a deeper aspect of your technical stuff."

Moton is also thankful she lives close to her parents and has been able to visit them more often and enjoy home-cooked meals.

"I definitely go over there more," Moton said. "Having that support system so close to me is something I am really grateful for, especially during this time."