ANYAUGO'S HARD WORK IN OFFSEASON PAYS OFF WITH BREAKTHROUGH YEAR
There is a Nigerian proverb that when translates to English reads, "Success is 10% ability and 90% sweat."
It should then come as no surprise that it was the hard work that junior Julia Anyaugo put in during the offseason that led to her breakout spring season and a spot in this weekend's NCAA East Preliminary Round.
Anyaugo's parents, George and Juliana, came to the United States from Nigeria in the late 80's when the country was dealing with multiple military uprisings and governmental struggles. The couple settled into Northern Virginia, where Julia grew up. She was busy a youngster with activities such as track, cheerleading and gymnastics.
From an early age, Julia's drive for excellence in everything she did was evident.
"I believe my drive and determination came from my parents," Anyaugo said. "They came from Nigeria to better themselves and start a family. Their desire for us to succeed has translated into all my endeavors."
Her drive for excellence continued into her high school years, where she was a multi-event track athlete at Park View High School.
"It was a normal occurrence for me to participate in five or six events at each meet," Anyaugo said. "I actually picked up the discus my sophomore year and started to have some real success during my last two seasons."
She got to VCU in 2008 and was initially training with the sprinters because her potential in the heptathlon, but it became clear that the throws area was where she possessed the most point scoring ability.
Anyaugo tossed all sorts of objects before really focusing on the discus this year and became a breakout star for the Black & Gold.
Entering this spring, the school record in the discus was held by Nikki Arrington with a mark of 134' 7", set in 2006. Anyaugo set a new standard in the event by not only breaking the record, but breaking her own mark twice, finishing the regular season with a toss of 157' 8" at the Vanderbilt Invitational. That's over 23 feet further than the old record.
"Julia's hard work over time accumulated this year in her being able to put together a large number of the factors that result in big throws," Assistant Coach Ethan Tussing said. "She made some technical changes and she really made great strides as far as her strength. That coupled with the other two or three factors she already possessed result in heavy objects flying farther than they've flown before."
Tussing, who's been at VCU for four years, supervises the Ram throwers and knew that Anyaugo had a chance to breakthrough after seeing her vast improvement in the weight room.
"When Julia first got her, she just wasn't very strong and she's really done a great job of improving that this year," Tussing said. "She increased her squat max and her bench by nearly 40 percent. The best part about it is that she still has room for growth in the tank for an outstanding senior year."
While gaining strength was a key component, both Anyaugo and Tussing feel that it was her early years of being a gymnast that has helped gain an edge.
"Gymnastics focuses on your endurance, core, flexibility and strength, which are all components that are crucial in being a successful athlete," Anyaugo said. "This year I felt like I was finally fully understanding my body in space. The throw is so quick and there are so many components that are being applied at the same time."
"The skills Julia gained from gymnastics and cheerleading gave her an added bonus over other athletes that haven't had this exposure that teaches a greater body awareness," Tussing commented.
Her success is far from limited to the discus pit as Anyaugo boasts high academic marks, reaching 4.0 status multiple times on her way towards a biology degree, with a pursuit of a pharmaceutical career in sight.
It's tough enough working her way through a busy track schedule and a rigorous academic obligations, but toss on top of that numerous community service activities, a volunteer chair position on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and her work with the Black Caucus.
"It's really just a matter of staying organized," Anyaugo said. "I write down all my assignment dates, meeting times, everything on a calendar. My parents showed me how to work hard and pursue your dreams and that's all I want to do."
But just as the Nigerian proverb said, hard work is what will bring those dreams into reality for Anyaugo, and this spring is pretty good evidence that she is more than willing to putforth the work.