Athlete Spotlight: Ajeé Wilson
Last month 18-year-old Ajeé Wilson ran the fastest-ever indoor 600m time by a junior athlete. While Wilson was proud of the accomplishment, there was only one problem with the record, she doesn’t think of herself as a junior athlete.
“I definitely think of myself as a senior athlete because those are the people that I’m racing,” Wilson said. “If I thought about it as ‘oh I’m a junior’ I could have a goal for a junior team or junior record, and still finish behind on the senior level.”
Since graduating from New Jersey’s Neptune Academy of Allied Health and Science high school last year, Wilson has quickly matured into an elite athlete. While her friends moved from home and moved into dorm rooms around the country, Wilson was on a different path. Wilson lives at home with her parents, is taking classes at Brookdale Community College and has signed a professional contract with adidas.
“The hardest part was being confident in myself in the path that I was choosing to take and having faith that this was the right choice for me,” Wilson said. “At first I was happy with my decision to stay home from school, but when people would ask me about it, I would be kind of sheepish about it when I told them what I was doing. It took me awhile to realize as I was training and it was putting in working that I was so much stronger than I was last year. Then all that completely went away, and I became sure of what I was doing.”
Forgoing the traditional path of competing as an NCAA student athlete allowed Wilson to stay at home and train with her coach Derek Thompson and the Juventus Track Club of Philadelphia.
“The best benefit to staying home is having consistency and knowing that I am doing what works for me and what is going to make me better,” Wilson said. “Also the flexibility of training times during the week and getting stronger is going to make a world of difference.”
While it is more of the same for Wilson, she is approaching training with a more mature mindset. Wilson and her coach recently sat down and spent time studying video of great 800m runners and their race tactics. She has also added weight and strength training to her regimen for the first time.
“Before I looked at each practice session and workout session as something to get through, but now I am putting in more effort and being more focused during practices,” Wilson said. “That is a major difference.”
Wilson has been accepted at Temple University and plans to begin pursuing her degree in kinesiology after the 2013 track season.
“I definitely want to break two minutes and make the World Championship team, those are my two goals.”
After a prep career highlighted with a World Youth 800m title in 2011 and a World Junior 800m title in 2012, Wilson is ready to take the age-group out of her titles.
“I want to be known as a competitor. I don’t want them to look at me as the young girl, but as a an athlete and a competitor who is running well.”
Wilson will compete in the 600 at the Millrose Games on Feb. 16 against a field including Alysia Montano, Phoebe Wright and Erica Moore.