National Champions: Freshman Ahmir Johnson, 4x400 relay team win NCAA Division III titles

National Champions: Freshman Ahmir Johnson, 4x400 relay team win NCAA Division III titles

Rowan's national champions include (from left) freshman Ahmir Johnson, who won the triple jump, and the 4x400 relay team of (from left) Francis Terry, Justin Bishop, Hunter Barbieri, and Amara Conte.

They would not be denied.

That’s the best way to sum up how, with flawless execution and extraordinary determination, Rowan University’s men’s track and field team won two national titles in the Division III Track & Field Championships on May 29 in Greensboro, N.C.

Freshman Ahmir Johnson won the national title in the triple jump, while the relay team of freshman Amara Conte and seniors Hunter Barbieri, Justin Bishop and Francis Terry won the national championship in the 4x400 meter relay (Watch the race here).

In both cases, the Profs took Coach Dustin Dimit’s advice to heart.

“I tell all of our guys, ‘Just go out and execute your event and good things will happen,” said Dimit. “Ahmir was ranked eighth in the triple. But he went out and executed. That morning, he was watching video in the car on the way in. He made some little changes. He said, ‘I’m not leaving here empty-handed.’”

“I was evaluating my jumps from past results and looking at things I did wrong,” said Johnson, who used a ninth-place finish in the long jump as inspiration to win the triple jump with a leap of 49’7” (15.11 m) on his second attempt. The jump was both a personal and school record.

“I wasn’t positioning myself correctly. My second phase has been terrible all season. But I tried it differently at the meet and it worked out for me.”

For the three seniors on the relay team, the national championship was the culmination of years of hard work. The team bested top-ranked Wartburg College and Washington University with a winning time of 3:11.81.

Conte established Rowan’s pace in the first leg, while Barbieri improved the team’s position to fourth place in the race. A crucial third leg by Bishop put Rowan in second, leaving Terry, the anchor, to overtake Wartburg’s runner to win the race.

“The third leg…that’s when you can lose a relay. It’s very hard to make up ground in that race. Justin put me in a great spot,” said Terry, team captain for the Profs, adding that the team finished third at nationals in 2018, something that has weighed heavily on them since.

But, after a rainy, cold day and a storm delay, the sun came out just as the 4x400 began, signaling “go time” for the quartet, Terry said.

“We’ve been waiting for that exact moment,” Terry said. “We’ve been talking about this for three or four years. It was our last race as seniors. Everything came together for us.”

“All three seniors dealt with injuries,” said Dimit. “They ran their fastest splits of the year. It was all the sweeter with the uncertainty they had.”

Conte and Barbieri are business majors, while Bishop and Francis are law and justice studies majors.

Rowan last won the men’s 4x400 in 2011 and 2012 under the late Coach Bill Fritz. Sprints Assistant Coach Norman Tate has been the coach for the 4x400 national championships since 2011.

In addition to receiving trophies, the Profs also will receive championship rings.

“That’s we’ve all been dreaming about,” Terry said. “This is something we’ll remember our whole lives.”

“I’m looking forward to getting my ring in the mail,” said Johnson, a computer science major. “But I’m going to keep working hard. I want to win again and keep the title.”

At the national championships, in addition to Johnson, Conte, Barbieri, Bishop and Terry, the Profs had the following athletes earn All-America accolades:

  • Jah’mere Beasley in both the 200-meter dash and the 4x100 meter relay;
  • Dan McAleavey and Julio Lebron in the javelin;
  • And Julian Pratt, Donovan Clement and Nana Agyemang in the 4x100 relay.

Overall, Rowan finished fourth in team scoring at the national championships.