The Academy of Art University’s men’s track program got two major honors on Monday.
Star sprinter Mobolade Ajomale was named US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association West Region Indoor Men’s Track Athlete of the Year, giving him the USTFCCCA honor, and the PacWest Male Athlete of the Year honor all within the same 12 months.
Head coach Kevin LaSure was also honored by the USTFCCCA, and was named the West Region Indoor Men’s Track Coach of the Year.
“This a well-deserved honor for Bolade,” said LaSure. “He has produced his most consistent season of his career thus far. And that is a testament to the work he has put in throughout the year and his maturity in the sport.”
Ajomale — a 2016 Olympic relay team member for Canada, and a bronze medalist — is a 14-time All-American and an eight-time NCAA Division II national champion out of Richmond Hill, Canada, whose family moved from Nigeria.
Originally, Ajomale was committed to Alabama, but literal days before he was set to arrive on campus, the Crimson Tide discovered that some of the classes he took in high school in Canada wouldn’t be accepted by the school.
Ajomale had a choice: Wait two years and attend a junior college and then transfer to Alabama, or go to the Academy of Art, which had a scholarship open, and run right away.
Ajomale and LaSure struck a deal: He would stay for at least a year, and if he liked it, his scholarship would be renewed and he could keep running for the Urban Knights.
Ajomale’s father was against him going to an art school in the United States, preferring for him to stay in Canada, but Ajomale wanted to get faster, and the only way to do that was to run at the college level in the U.S.
His father relented, and since then, Ajomale has become a sensation.
In 2016, he was a 4×100 relay alternate in the Olympics, and during the preliminary heats, ran next to Usain Bolt. When he got to San Francisco, he became a two-time outdoor All-American (100m, 200m), a three-time indoor All-American, won 2016 PacWest Freshman of the Year, was the conference championship’s male athlete of the meet and won the USTFCCCA D2 West Region Indoor Track Athlete of the year for the first time.
In 2017, he scored USTFCCCA D2 Indoor West Region Track Athlete of the Year again, was a two-time indoor All-American, a two-time outdoor All-American, earned the USTFCCCA’s D2 Outdoor West Region Track Athlete of the Year and once again took home the conference track athlete of the year honors.
In 2018, he broke the NCAA D2 record in the indoor 200m, was named an outdoor All-American three times and a two-time indoor All-American, won the outdoor track athlete of the year award from the USTFCCCA, once again won the PacWest Male Track Athlete of the Year, plus the conference’s Male Athlete of the Year and Track Athlete of the Year.
This indoor season, at the Pitt State Invitational on Jan. 26, Ajomale became the only DII sprinter to go sub-6.70 with his 6.67 Nationals automatic qualifier. He added not only another automatic qualification to Nationals in the 200m, but his 20.80 mark at the Boston University Last Chance Meet on on Feb. 24 was the second in Division II history, behind his own record of 20.67 seconds.
In his lone 400m race of the year at the Grand Valley State Big Meet on Feb. 8, Ajomale delivered a lifetime-best 46.78, which served as the fourth-fastest time in Division II. He also contributed to the Urban Knights’ 4x400m relay whose 3:10.07 at the BU Last Chance Meet was sixth-fastest in DII history, second by a DII team this season, and a program record by more than two seconds.
“I have been blessed to coach some of the best student-athletes in the history of NCAA Division II Track & Field (and Bolade’s right at the top of that list) and, when it’s all said and done, it’s not the championships or the accolades you remember most, it’s the journey it took to get there,” LaSure said. “Right now, I’m just enjoying the journey and grateful to be a part of his story. My wish for every student-athlete that I coach is that they leave a better person on and off the track than they were when they arrive. Hopefully that holds true for Bolade. If so, then my job and time with him was a success.”
As for LaSure’s honor, it’s his third West Region Indoor Coach of the Year honor in four years with the program, having won it in 2016 and 2017, the same two years Ajomale also won the West Region’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
The team had four Nationals auto-qualifying marks and 12 provisional qualifying marks including the aforementioned DII historically significant times in the 200m and 4x400m.
The two will head to Pittsburg, Kansas this weekend for the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Robert W. Plaster Center.