LAWRENCE — Alexandra Emilianov became the first Kansas track and field athlete to earn a fourth first-team All-America nod in the women’s discus throw earlier this month, with a second-place finish at the NCAA’s outdoor championships.
It was the latest program record Emilianov, a senior for throws this past season, set in her career with the Jayhawks. More recognition, as the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s women’s field athlete of the year for the Midwest region, followed. And Emilianov, who’s from Moldova, had not received a USTFCCCA regional honor before.
“I had good meets and I had bad meets,” said Emilianov, reflecting on her career. “Like, this last year, I was, like, emotionally tired, you could say. Like, I was, like, giving up and stuff, you could say. But, it took me some time to maybe, like, get it together, basically, to, like, not spend as much time working out and, like, spend it on, like, life a little bit more … Basically, I had a vacation from traveling. And now I’m like back into wanting to do it, being ready for it. Like, last year … I was going to nationals, but not to win. But just to participate. And this time I was going there to win.”
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Emilianov chose to come to Kansas after being recruited by Andy Kokhanovsky, the Jayhawks’ assistant coach for throws. Emilianov said he, unlike the other people recruiting her, made what she saw as a true effort to recruit her. And recently Emilianov took some time to reflect on the career that recruitment led to in this Q&A:
Question: There’s obviously a confidence that you operate with as an athlete … Is there a moment you can point back to, a specific moment maybe in your career as an athlete at Kansas, maybe it was before, where you realized the talent you have and that you can compete among the best?
Answer: “My freshman year, I was, like, super confident because I got eighth in Europe … It was my first year, basically, competing with all the adults. And that was, like, the year when I was, like, over-confident in myself. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll get it. I’ll do it. Everything is good.’ So, basically right now, I feel almost exactly the same as my freshman year.”
Q: Are there any other competitions that you feel like are going to stick with you, in the years to come? Maybe it’s because of what you achieved at those competitions at Kansas, or maybe there’s another reason that makes it memorable.
A: “For Kansas, it’s probably every competition I won and every competition I put a school record. So, like, I think top six are mine in (discus) — like, results. And in shot (put), I think I have outdoor school record.”
According to a Kansas release, Emilianov holds both the indoor and outdoor school records for shot put. She also holds the outdoor school record in the discus throw. And according to a separate Kansas release, when she captured the title for the discus throw at the Big 12 Conference’s outdoor championships this past season, she became just the second athlete in conference history to win three titles in that event.
Q: Are there memories away from competitions, memories that you made with teammates, that are going to stick with you as well after you leave Kansas for good?
A: “I was a freshman or a sophomore when we went to Florida, and coach Andy made it that, like, after the competition we went to a beach. And all of us, literally, just went to the beach. It was, like, freezing cold. But we still were swimming … Everyone was, like, still competing. And he made it so, like, all throwers threw … like, in the first two days of the competition. And then we went and were at the beach. And that was like the most exciting thing ever.”
Q: Are there places that you’ve competed at, whether it’s another Big 12 Conference school or elsewhere … that will stick with you that are the most fun to compete at? Whether it’s because of fans, whether it’s because of where you were or anything like that.
A: “Probably Rock Chalk Park, because we had a competition … This time we had Jayhawk Classic, I think that was called. And I was like — I usually tell all my, like, classmates in different classes, like, ‘Hey, there’s going to be a competition. If you want to come, you can come.’ But, like, usually no one shows up. But this year I had, like — my classmates would come and, like, watch me and I was, like — after the competition I’d go there. And I see them. And they’re like, ‘Hey, we came to watch you.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s so sweet.’ So, that was like probably the first time when my classmates actually showed up.”
Emilianov noted, too, that she usually competed on the last day of a meet. She hated doing that. However, it also meant that teammates of hers, who aren’t doing anything else because they’re done, can come and cheer for her. And she enjoys when that happens.
Q: I’d read that you have aims of competing for the Paris Olympics in 2024. But, I was curious also, about you saying … you, one day, hope to work at Google … Is that something you discovered about yourself while at Kansas? Or, was that something that you had always wanted to do even before Kansas was in the picture?
A: “Before, I’ve always, like, liked Google … I think I saw that movie, I think it’s ‘The Internship’ … When, like, two guys — they’re like 40 years old, whatever, and they got into Google. I think it’s ‘The Internship.’ Yeah, so, I saw that one and I was like, ‘Well, that would be dope.’ So, like, I started, like, googling about Google, basically. But, for me to get into Google, I should have started, like, 20 years ago. And I’m 22. So, it’s kind of hard to get in there. But, we’ll try. If not, then I always can just continue throwing. No, I’m joking. I would not be able to throw all of my life.”
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.