Ekoue continues to set the standard he set for himself before coming to UWEC

Yakob Ekoue set out on a mission when he came to UW-Eau Claire. His goal was to win national championships.

Or rather, he says, “I had hoped to win national titles.” Mission accomplished. The Blugold superstar — and that’s not using the word lightly — has been on the awards podium as a NCAA champion not once, but twice, in his years here with the track and field team in Eau Claire. And he hopes to make it to the top again later this month.

To put everything into perspective before hearing from the star athlete himself, here’s what Ekoue has accomplished in his chosen sport as a Blugold.

The UWEC graduate student not only won the men’s outdoor shot put national title last May, he triumphed at the Division III indoor national championships in March, as well. In last year’s championship, Ekoue earned All-America status in three events. His heave of 17.63 meters handily won the shot put competition, beating second place by 0.61 meters. It earned him his first career national championship. Ekoue also was the national runner-up in discus and took third in hammer throw.

Headlining the three-day competition for the Blugolds, Ekoue entered the meet as a four-time All-American, and left it as a seven-time All-American. He was crowned outdoor national champion in the shot put with a heave of 17.63m. The day prior last year, Ekoue placed second in the discus with a personal best of 56.55m. Ekoue ended the meet for the Blugolds by placing third in the hammer throw with a toss of 59.71m.

And in his March victory, he claimed his first indoor shot put national championship and Eau Claire’s ninth shot put title since 2015. Ekoue’s throw of 18.70m at those D-III nationals ranks as the third longest in UW-Eau Claire history.

A month later, Ekoue continued his historic Blugold career with a first-place finish in the men’s discus and yet another career long throw of 60.16 meters at the prestigious Drake Relays in Iowa. Ekoue’s top throw amongst a field of 24 athletes from schools in Division I, II, and III sets the program record for long discus throw. His throw was the second longest in all divisions (college, university, and Olympic) and is the third longest in Division III history.

And later this month, he will go for another national championship after he took the crown in discus (52.89m), placed second in hammer (59.27m), and third in shot put (16.80m) at the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association (WIAC) championships in Platteville over the weekend. That could eventually lead Ekoue to at least one more national championship.

Before that can happen, let’s put first things first, though, as he first has to qualify for those championships on May 16 at the Augustana NCAA qualifiers to be held in Rock Island, Illinois. If he qualifies there, he will look to place highly in all three at the NCAA National Championships set to be held at Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, May 23-25.

These are all mighty big accomplishments from a man who wasn’t even sure if he was going to pursue track and field in college in the first place.

“In high school, I was a linebacker and originally was going to play football,” the Hopkins, Minnesota, native told the Leader-Telegram. “I was doing track to stay in shape, though.”

Things changed, however, and there was a shift in Ekoue’s perspective as to what sport he wanted to pursue in college.

“I kept progressing better in the shotput and I kind of liked track better,” he said.

The rest is history.

But to be the best, you’ve gotta put in the time — even in the off-season — and Ekoue was more than willing to do just that.

During the season he lifts two-to-three hours per day and in the summer that can move upwards of four hours. To balance his classes with his practices and lifting sessions, Ekoue has developed a carefully thought-out plan.

“If I have no classes then I can get stuff done early and then do homework,” he noted.

That’s because just as he keeps his eye on the prize on his athletics, he also keeps focused on his future.

A marketing management major, Ekoue looks to one day become a professional salesman — and he’s more than up to that task. As confident as he is on the field, he’s equally as confident when being interviewed. He knows that selling things can prove to be a daunting job, but he’s more than up to the task at hand. That’s a trait equally as important in sports as it is in the professional world, he noted.

“I like being persistent,” he said, adding that UW-Eau Claire has a good sales program and there are a lot of major sponsors who make the school and its program an ideal place for him to market himself into an eventual professional career.

“It’s a big networking place here,” Ekoue said. And it’s not lost on him that the same attitude that has made him a national champion should serve him well in his chosen profession.

“Sales are competitive,” so just like sports, “you get what you put into it.”

Studying and participating in athletic events that transcend two seasons, doesn’t provide Ekoue with a lot of time to pursue any hobbies, but he did mention that he used “to game a lot, but not as much anymore. I watch YouTube a lot,” though, he added.

As a former football player, it’s not surprising that one of his favorite athletes is a gridiron star. What may be surprising, though, is the team that the player Ekoue admires started out with.

The Tennessee Titans are his favorite team, though he did admit to the Leader-Telegram that “I like the Vikings,” but his favorite player is none other than quarterback Marcus Mariota.

“I like his playing style and his passing style,” Ekoue said. In his chosen sport, he also mentioned Robert Harding as an athlete who he looks up to.

No doubt a lot of aspiring track and field players in this area and around the WIAC probably like Ekoue’s style, too. For those who hope to one day become successful not only in that sport, but in athletics in general, he has some key words of advice that sort of serve as his own personal mantra to achievement.

The key, he said, is to “not be average, not be complacent. I’m always trying to progress and always trying to learn. You can still learn each day. The biggest thing is to always try to progress.”

Words to live by from a national champion who hopes to add some more titles to his already prestigious resume before his time in Eau Claire is done. contributed to the track and field recap portions of this story.