By Thomas Sellers Jr.
In front of her Munford Track teammates, coaches Barnard Ivie and Thomas Walters and family Lemons signed her national letter of intent to UT-Martin.
While Lemons has chased her dream through hard work, training and achieving good grades, the first person who saw her potential to become a college athlete was her late mother April.
“It’s a dream come true,” Lemons said. “I started doing track in sixth grade. Finally my senior year and I am here.
“I was really, really good at track,” she continued. “So I just stuck with what I knew and progressed in it.”
Ivie and Walters welcomed Lemons to the track and cross country programs as a freshman. Both coaches served a mentors to Lemons from practice to the weight room to the classroom.
“It’s an opportunity a kid gets to go on to compete and it be paid for,” Ivie said. “She’s going to be paying nothing to go to school at Martin between her grades and track scholarship.
“That’s just the kind of person she is,” he added. “This is a young lady who totally dedicated herself to track. She didn’t do any other sports and every coach wanted her. By the time of her sophomore year everybody realized this girl is an athlete. I’m not going to take credit for making Ayonna Lemons what she is. She was an athlete when I got her. But she’s gotten better and better.”
Lemon participated in several events becoming Munford’s go-to athlete in the 100m and 300m hurdles.
“I want to set a new 300m hurdle record and a new 100m hurdle record,” Lemons said before she graduates. “You should probably see me in Murfreesboro.
“In middle school I never hurdled until my sophomore year in high school,” she recalled. “They finally understood I could be more than a runner. So Coach Ivie put me on the hurdles. That’s actually where I should have been since I started. At first I was just a sprinter. I did 4×100 and 4×200. He put me in the hurdles and I just took over.”
Ivie said the potential April saw in her daughter has come to fruition the past four years.
“There’s not an event in track she can’t do except pole vault,” he said. “That’s because we don’t have a pole vault area.
“She runs and does the triple jump,” Ivie continued. “She competes in four events in every meet we do.”
Ivie said Leomons emerged as one of the best Lady Cougar Track athletes ever, through her team-first approach, consistent practices, development of her body in the weight room and being a student of the sport.
“We had a mutual appreciation of each other and a respect from day one,” he said. “How many times you have a kid in four years you never had to say a negative word to them? I hadn’t had very many of them. She’s a special child and I thank God I had the opportunity to coach her. I thank her family.
Lemon’s two major guardians her aunt Olivia Lemons and cousin/youth minister Sharon Powell celebrated the moment with her. Ayonna said it took a village to help her reach her dream and April’s promise.
“My aunt and cousin mostly, they are the two in there today,” she said. “They basically raised me since my Mother died when I was 9. They stepped in brought me up and showed me this is how you do stuff and this is how you treat people. They brought me up.”
Now the sky is the limit for the future Skyhawk.
“Before she passed, she always talked about how I can do it,” Ayonna concluded. “She never got a chance to see me start track. But she would always be happy for me when I was in elementary school. ‘I can’t wait for you to get into middle school and start track.’”