Courtesy: UMKC Athletics/MSH Photography
Hall of Fame Spotlight - Dion (McNeal) Lucas
Courtesy:UMKC Athletics
Release:01/21/2013
By David Boyce

A year before Dion McNeal arrived at UMKC, she played basketball at Missouri Rolla and participated in track and field.

Sometime during her freshman year, a thought popped into McNeal's head.

"I said to myself, wait a second, I could do track and field full time because there is an indoor and outdoor season," McNeal said.

McNeal proved in high school that she had enough skill in the throws to compete at Division I. She was a Missouri state champion in the discus her senior year at Parkway West in St. Louis.

"I thought maybe use that as a ticket to get out of Rolla," McNeal said. "I was happy the track scholarship was able to pay for my tuition so I could go to school and become a math teacher."

Her plan worked. Thirteen years later, McNeal, who earned a Masters in Education at UMKC in 2007, is a math teacher at Liberty Academy in Liberty, Mo.

McNeal also left her mark in the UMKC track program.

"When I came to UMKC in 2000 I was full of excitement," she said. "I had a new throwing coach. He showed me the ropes. He showed me the hammer throw and the weight throw, the shot put and discus.

"Under his leadership I was able to set a record."

She still owns the school indoor track record in the 20-pound weight throw in 2002. In the 2002 outdoor season, she set a school record in the hammer throw that still stands.

"That was 11 years ago," McNeal said. "My records haven't been broken yet."

Often, special athletes accomplish feats that stand the test of time.

McNeal is one of those student-athletes and that is why UMKC is honoring her by putting her into the school's athletic Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is Jan. 25th.

"I'm thankful, honored and surprised," McNeal said. "It is a great honor. My parents always say you don't have to be the best, but be among the best.

"I truly feel by looking up some of the other Hall of Famers from the previous years, some who were my former teammates, I'm in awe to be in the distinguish class with them."

McNeal definitely earned her spot. She excelled in the weight throws and discus. She qualified for the NCAA indoor meet in 2002 in the weight throw and qualified for the national outdoor meet in 2003 in the hammer throw.

"My best memory was winning the conference title in the weight throw in 2002," McNeal said. "When it happened, it happened so quick. It was effortless. I didn't have to struggle at all to throw that weight.

"I had a blast at UMKC. It went by fast."

The memories remain vivid. McNeal enjoyed the daily grind in the weight room and track practice, going after it and the athletes pushing each other to be better.

"That is what I truly cherish," she said. "Without my coaches and teammates pushing me, I wouldn't have done all the things I did the time I was there."

When McNeal graduated UMKC in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Education, she stayed involved in track, coaching eighth graders. She also coached 8th grade basketball.

"Coaching is like a full time job," McNeal said. "They pay you part time, but it is a fulltime gig.

"I'm not coaching anymore. I'm enjoying married life. It is just me and my hubby."

NOTE: Last name is now Lucas.

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