SENIOR SERIES: A profile look at triumphs and struggles experienced by some Aurora senior prep athletes in the time of the coronavirus pandemic:
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
Ever since his family even thought about coming to America from Ethiopia when he was 7, Beneyam Yifru has been a winner.
The Overland senior soccer star shared his exceptional story with the Sentinel during soccer season, one that began more than a decade ago when his family had the good fortune of winning a Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery — which go to a small number of applicants from six geographic regions around the world — that allowed them to come to the country.
The family has flourished ever since in the business world and academically, as his older sister earned a Gates Scholarship at the University of Colorado that will pay for a decade of schooling. Not to be left out is Beneyam, who was recently announced as one of the 200 winners of the coveted Daniels Fund scholarship.
“I was able to carry on the tradition for the family,” Yifru said. “I had big shoes to fill, but my family never tried to put too much pressure on me. They are beyond proud of me and the best part is it opened more doors for me to compete at the next level.”
Yifru emerged from a group of 2,400 applicants for the Daniels Fund scholarship, which covers tuition and expenses and a variety of other things for four years of college. It also boosted his odds of playing soccer at the college of his choice as he brings a scholarship in hand.
Not that his soccer resume doesn’t stand for itself. A speedy striker with fearlessness and a knack for finishing in multiple ways, Yifru racked up 23 goals and nine assists during the fall for a much-improved Overland team and his performance earned him Player of the Year honors in the Centennial League, one of the top leagues in Colorado.
Yifru — who has long had a goal of playing professional soccer — recently announced his commitment to Gardner-Webb University, a Division I school in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. He had also considered UC-Davis is California and the University of New Hampshire.
Yifru feels extremely fortunate that he got to play his senior season in the fall before the pandemic arrived, which gave him enough chances to put his skills on display to potential college coaches. He lost some chances for more exposure in the club season when games were canceled due to the coronavirus, but it hasn’t hurt him much as far as his playing.
With cones and balls borrowed from his coach, Yifru has returned to the field at Overland — making sure to be there alone — every day and continues to work on his skills. He hopes all of his fell senior athletes do the same.
“My tip to other seniors is to take advantage of this time however you can,” Yifru said. “If you want to get better, go out alone and work on your craft. You don’t know who else is working. You want to come out on the other side of this quarantine in as good shape as you can.”
Yifru definitely had other things at the end of his senior year that he was looking forward to that have gone by the wayside because of the pandemic — including a Signing Day ceremony he hoped to share with Overland’s supportive administrators — but he understands the gravity of a time in the country that will end up in history books.
“These last couple of months I was hoping to enjoy the time with my friends; as seniors we started this journey together and we wanted to finish it and walk the stage together,” Yifru said. “I can’t complain because they made the best decision. This is a historic time I will be able to tell my kids about later on.”
Yifru hopes to continue playing soccer at the highest level he is able to reach, but his college plan is to study biomedical engineering, which he sees as an industry that will be in big demand in the near future.
SENTINEL PREPS’ SENIOR SERIES