All six Cavaliers that advanced to the finals of their respective events at the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships earned All-America honors, including four on the final day of competition at McDonnell Field on the University of Arkansas’ campus. Seniors Yemi Ayeni, Billie-Jo Grant and Caitlin Kelly and freshman Morgane Gay each earned the distinction today, joining juniors Meghan Briggs and Stephanie Garcia - who competed yesterday - among the nation’s elite.
With Briggs, Garcia, Gay, Grant and Kelly honored, Virginia’s women set a new program-best for the amount of Cavaliers honored in a single season, as the previous record was four in 1983. Grant became the program’s first-ever four-time All-American in a single event, while Gay is Virginia’s first-ever female outdoor freshman All-American.
In addition, Grant and Kelly’s dual honors in the discus marks only the second-time that two Cavaliers have earned All-America honors in the same event at a championship, as Jill Haworth and Kim Kelly were both honored in the 1500m in 1983.
Ayeni started the day for the Cavaliers throwing 191’ 1” to finish fourth overall in the discus, while the top qualifier out of the preliminaries, California’s Martin Maric, won the title with a throw of 196’ 3”.
Ayeni finishes his career as one of the most decorated male athletes at Virginia. The school’s first three-time male All-American in a single event, Ayeni recently became the program’s first-ever NCAA East Region Champion, as well, winning the 2009 discus title for his fourth all-region honor in the event. The three-time ACC Champion also won two Penn Relays titles becoming the first Cavalier male athlete to win a title at the prestigious event since Frank Fuller won the 110 hurdles in 1940 - in addition to four-straight IC4A Championships. Ayeni holds the IC4A meet record in the discus and is Virginia’s school record holder in the throw, as well as owning the indoor and outdoor shot put marks.
Gay, Virginia’s first-ever freshman All-American during the outdoor season, became the sixth Cavalier all-time to earn the national honor in the 1500m, and the first since Lara Drauglis did so in 1994. Gay finished 10th overall in the event with a time of 4:19.59, while Florida State’s Susan Kuijken won the title in 4:13.05.
Gay finishes her inaugural season as a Cavalier as one of the top rookies in the nation, in addition to being tabbed the ACC Freshman of the Year. She advanced to the NCAA finals by running the second-fastest time in school history - and the 10th-fastest US Junior national time on Thursday evening, finishing the race in 4:15.37. Gay was an All-East Region performer, in addition to an all-conference honoree, in the 1500m. She was a regional qualifier in both the 1500m and the 800m and holds Virginia’s indoor school record in the 800m.
In the discus, Kelly finished fourth with a throw of 168’ 10”, while Grant finished sixth with a mark of 165’ 7”, earning both Cavaliers All-America honors. Texas Tech’s D’Andra Carter won the event with a throw of 182’ 6”.
Grant finishes her illustrious career as the program’s first-ever four-time All-American in a single event. She was also a four-time All-East Region performer and a four-time all-conference honoree in the discus. Grant won the 2008 NCAA East Region Title and the 2005 ACC Championship in the event. She holds Virginia’s school records in the discus and the indoor shot put.
Kelly wraps up a standout senior season with a prestigious Penn Relays discus title and an ECAC Championship. She joins Grant and Kelly Bodiford (1993) as the only Cavaliers to earn All-America honors in the discus, and finished the year as the runner-up at ACCs and was an all-region performer in the event.
Overall, Virginia’s women finished tied for 36th place with eight points, while the men finished tied for 48th with five points.