Q&A with Yemi Ayeni
Senior All-American Yemi Ayeni is among nine Cavaliers competing this week for an NCAA Championship in Fayetteville, Ark. Ayeni finished runner-up at NCAAs a year ago in the discus to become Virginia’s highest-ever male field event performer at nationals. He is currently undefeated in the event this season, as he won the men’s program its first-ever NCAA East Region title, his third-straight ACC Championship, his second-consecutive Penn Relays title and fourth IC4A title – breaking the meet record with his winning throw. Ayeni is currently ranked fifth nationally and will compete in the qualifying round of the discus at NCAAs on Thursday at 2 p.m., where he will vie for a spot in Saturday’s finals.
Question: You became the first Cavalier male to ever earn an East Region title, winning the discus this year. What does that accomplishment mean to you or say about your progress in the event?
Ayeni: I feel as though it has been earned in many respects because I have been performing at such a high level for such a long time. It was wonderful to win the region and I think that my experience was what won it for me.
Question: You also won your second-consecutive Penn Relays title, third-straight ACC Championship and fourth IC4A title this year. How does the regional title stack up against the others? Which was the most satisfying? Which did you feel you had to work the hardest for?
Ayeni: The regional title, in my opinion, is a meet that cannot be truly classified with the other meets you just mentioned because each has something unique to offer as far as competition is concerned. Therefore, for me to say that I liked one over the other would be like choosing a favorite child in a family of four children, which is too hard for me to do. However, the most satisfying to me would have to be the IC4A titles and record performances I have attained four years in a row in my home state of New Jersey. With regards to the most demanding meet between these four, it would have to be ACCs because of the sheer importance of winning, which means I have to be in top form.
Question: With all of those wins, including a few other meets, you are impressively undefeated in the discus this season. How does knowing that sit for you heading into the NCAA Championships?
Ayeni: I try to stay humble in my journey as a champion because I have been on both sides of the spectrum as far as winning and losing is concerned. I know that this season will be one to remember no matter what the outcome at nationals is.
Question: As a two-time All-American, what are your goals for this year’s national championships?
Ayeni: To compete at a level that commands respect in such a way that people would see me and automatically have nothing but good things to attribute to myself, and my wonderful competitive spirit.
Question: Do you have any post-collegiate goals in the event? Do you plan to continue competing?
Ayeni: Yes, since I have been blessed tremendously with this talent, I will push it to the limits of my imagination, meaning, medaling at the Olympics while representing my country of origin (Nigeria).
Question: What is it like competing as a graduate of the University of Virginia?
Ayeni: To be a graduate for me means to have gone through a rigorous academic institution in my allotted four years without any major obstacles, which in combination with my athletic career is immaculate in my eyes.
Question: Do you know what your future holds? Any plans for next year?
Ayeni: I project that I will be in Charlottesville next year to train. As far as an occupation goes, I will be working in insurance. But due to my entrepreneurial spirit, I will most likely be also looking at the possibilities of pursuing several business ventures in the future.
Question: Lastly, the track and field program is under new leadership and has more than the majority of performers returning for next year. What do you foresee the future of the program being? And what does it mean to you to have been such an integral part of this year’s success?
Ayeni: As I have learned, on my unending search for wisdom – the truly successful are those who know their destiny and know the amount of sacrifice it will take to attain it. I have sacrificed for my team through and through with the time, dedication and determination I have put in over the past four years. I am glad that the next generation will greatly benefit from the hard work I have put forth in the history of the program and I am very excited to see them succeed in the future as well.