By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — As the finish line nears, Jacob Lemmon can look back at his five years at the University of Virginia and marvel at all he’s experienced away from the state where he was born and raised.

“Charlottesville is just beautiful,” said Lemmon, a native of Fort Myers, Fla. “I love Florida too. I love the water in Florida, I love the vegetation, palm trees and mangroves, but we don’t have mountains and we don’t have the architectural styles that we have up here. There’s a sense of history in Charlottesville. I haven’t gotten tired of this town, really, in five years. So I will look back on my time fondly.”

Lemmon will have two seasons of eligibility left after this school year ends—one in indoor track & field and the other outdoors—and he’ll spend them at the University of Florida. But he’ll leave UVA with two degrees and an impressive body of work as a thrower.

In the weight throw, an indoor event, Lemmon ranks second all-time at Virginia. Outdoors, he ranks fourth in program history in the hammer throw and fifth in the discus.

In June 2021, Lemmon earned first-team All-America honors by placing fifth in the discus at the NCAA championships. A year later, he placed 15th at NCAAs in the discus to become a second-team All-American.

Lemmon’s final postseason as a Cavalier starts this week at the ACC outdoor championships in Atlanta. He’ll compete in the hammer throw on Thursday and in the discus on Saturday.

“I just want to go in there and fight for a championship,” Lemmon said.

He’s competed only twice at the ACC outdoor championships, in 2021 and ’22. Lemmon missed last year’s meet while recovering from an injury.

In 2021, he placed fifth in both the hammer throw and the discus at the ACC championships. In 2022, he dipped in both events, placing seventh in the discus and 11th in the hammer throws at ACCs.

“So this is the year to make it happen,” Lemmon said. “I think our team is in a good position to win an ACC championship, and I just want to do as much as I can to realize that. I want to have a large responsibility in kind of fulfilling that vision. I want to look back, when all the points are in, and be like, ‘Yeah, I contributed a lot towards our score.’ ”

After the ACC meet comes the NCAA East Regional in Lexington, Ky., where Lemmon will try to qualify for the NCAA championships, to be held next month in Eugene, Ore.

“I’ve been having a pretty good season,” Lemmon said, “and I expect to have some much better marks in the coming weeks.”

He closed the regular season in memorable fashion. At Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Lemmon won the college men’s discus title April 27 at the famed Penn Relays. He returned to Charlottesville that night and then competed the next day at Lannigan Field, where he finished runner-up in the discus with a personal-best throw of 60.50 meters at the Virginia High Performance meet.

For winning at the Penn Relays, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Lemmon received a gold watch on which Benjamin Franklin is depicted. “It was just awesome,” Lemmon said of the experience. “I don’t think there’s another track meet like that in the country. The environment there is just unmatched. There’s tens of thousands of people in this football stadium for an event that goes on three or four days straight.”

Jacob Lemmon

Back in Charlottesville, Lemmon spoke on the phone with former UVA teammate Claudio Romero, an NCAA champion thrower who’s now at LSU. “He was keeping track of my results at Penn Relays and shot me over congratulations,” Lemmon said, “so I gave him a call.”

Lemmon and Romero came in together at UVA in the summer of 2019. Neither competed during the indoor season in 2019-20, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 forced them to delay their Cavalier debuts until the 2020-21 school year.

“A lot of the failures and setbacks during my years at UVA have motivated me to work harder,” Lemmon said.

Missing the 2020 outdoor season “motivated me to work towards having a better season the next year,” Lemmon said. “Also, my [2022] season wasn’t all that great, in part due to some reasons outside the track, and this resulted in me not repeating as a first team All-American. My feeling of inadequacy from performing below my own inflated expectations and comparing myself to other throwers my third year pushed me to work harder going into my fourth year.”

That didn’t go as planned. In September 2022, Hurricane Ian hammered Fort Myers. Lemmon planned to dedicate his fourth year to his hometown, only to tear his pectoral muscle in late February 2023.

“The combination of having a down year [in 2021-22] and the pec injury resulted in 1,099 days of not throwing a personal record in the discus,” Lemmon said. “During the time I was out, it was very difficult watching others compete in my event, and I was worried about the possibility that I wouldn’t get back to 100 percent from a performance and health standpoint in a sport where you always strive to be 101 percent. But my strength and ability has totally returned because of the work I put in, and I have hit that 101 percent.”

Lemmon had surgery in March 2023. He rehabbed diligently, often under the guidance of UVA athletic trainer Kat Barnes, and was cleared to throw again last summer.

During his college years, Lemmon said, he’s learned “that as long as the potential is there, sometimes the journey is going to take a lot longer than you’d like, but you’ll get there if you plow through the obstacles and keep putting in the right work. Everyone faces challenges; that’s what life’s about. I’m just happy I continued to believe in myself and didn’t put my foot on the brakes along the way. I’m also thankful for the family, friends, and coaches who also continued to believe in me during the moments I needed it.”

Lemmon, who received his bachelor’s degree in foreign affairs last year, minored in history and archeology “for fun,” he said. He’ll finish work in the M.S. in Commerce program next month.

“It feels like I’ve been here a long time,” Lemmon said, smiling. “But even now I don’t think back to too many of the negative experiences. I try to think back to the positive ones. I’ve met a lot of good people along the way, too.”

Lemmon has worked with three throws coaches at UVA: Martin Maric for three years; Steve Lemke in 2022-23; and Brandon Amo this school year.

When he arrived at Virginia, Lemmon said, “I was used to having coaching from multiple people. My high school didn’t have a throwing coach. So my primary coach in high school was Andy Vince, who runs a club called Throws Coach Florida. But then when I moved to Virginia, I had to see different people. I didn’t have Andy anymore. So I got used to the idea of just taking bits and pieces from different coaches and just learning what I could from whoever was made available to me.

“Coach Maric was a great coach,” Lemmon said. “I hated seeing him leave, but I knew Lemke had a lot of experience at Florida—he’s one of those old, semi-legendary coaches—and I learned a lot from him too. I just took what I could and applied his points to my throw while also not throwing away what Martin had taught me.

“I have made some huge technical changes with Coach Amo. However, the way he helped me integrate these changes was non-destructive to the throw. We’ve also placed a huge emphasis on mobility, athleticism, and creating torque in my core during the throw this year.”

Change can be disruptive, but “I haven’t really had to reset completely during any of those transitions,” Lemmon said. “I think I’m coming out better just because of the multiple perspectives I’ve had for the past couple of years.”

He’s on track to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials late next month in Eugene, Ore. His immediate focus, though, is in on capping his UVA career in style.

“I want to go out fighting,” Lemmon said. “I came in fifth place at NCAAs my first year competing. I’ve got to do better than that. I can’t let my first year of competing for Virginia be my best year for Virginia.”

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