GREENSBORO (June 11, 2018) – In three seasons as a North Carolina A&T Aggie, Rodney Rowe (5-foot-11, Junior, Sprinter, Clayton, N.C.) has achieved track and field All-American status an amazing four times.
Rowe placed fifth overall in the 200 meters at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championship Track and Field Championships at Historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Ore. Rowe and his teammates, senior Joel Thomas, freshman Michael Bell and junior Michael Dickson made the NCAA finals in the 4x100 meter relay.
Making both finals in the recent NCAA outdoor championships gives Rowe three first-time All-American nods (2017 4x100, 2018 200m, 2018 4x100). Rowe now joins Christopher Belcher as the only two Aggies in history to be three-time first-team All-Americans. Rowe also has a second-team All-American indoor accolade in the 200 to his credit.
“It is a great honor to be able to join that prestigious group of Aggies,” said Rowe. “I wish I was able to win the 200 but it was a great learning lesson, and it showed me that I need to get stronger for next year.”
Going From Robin to Batman
Last year, Rowe had Belcher to train and compete with; and often it was the Belcher show. Belcher went to the podium twice at last year’s NCAA championships by leading the 4x100 team to the bronze by finishing third. He also finished third in the 100m and he finished fifth in the 200m to top off his three-time first-team All-American performances.
Rowe and his coach Duane Ross, N.C. A&T’s director of track and field programs, talked numerous times about Rowe stepping out from under Belcher’s shadow after Belcher had a historic 2017 that ended with him signing with Nike after the USA Track and Field Championships. Stepping into the forefront started with leadership for Rowe.
“Rodney has been vocal all season, leading by example and saying things to his teammates that they sometimes didn’t want to hear,” Ross said “Some of the other athletes call him Coach Rowe because he really knows his craft when it comes to sprinting. He pays close attention to every word I say when training and during meet prep. As a coach, it’s refreshing to see an athlete hang on to every instruction and execute things exactly the way you ask.”
Rowe also won the 2018 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference outdoor crown in the 200 with the 17th fastest time in the nation (20.42). As a freshman and sophomore, Rowe was a member of the 4x100-meter relay teams that reached the national stage.
“It was many days of hard practices and weight room workouts, but I enjoyed it all because this is what I want to do for my career,” Rowe added.
Following a breakout sophomore season where the 4x100 team ran 38.48 during a qualifying round at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Championships for the ninth-fastest time in NCAA history, Rowe began his junior season with a stress fracture in his foot and was forced to sit out until after the New Year putting him behind in training.
“It was hard to sit out because all I wanted to do was be out there with my team getting better and faster, but I had to just motivate them from the side and keep pushing them,” Rowe said. “I was unable to do any real physical activity so I would just go to the pool or do my own stuff in my room to get stronger.”
In January, Rowe ran 200m indoor time of 21.85 and steadily trimmed his time to a personal-best indoor 20.74 at the Tyson Invitational in February. He dominated the field at the conference indoor championships winning gold in both the 200 and the 4x100 team.
“The first few meets I was forced to miss but once I came back I had to start my conditioning all over,” Rowe explained. “It was a long and grueling process, but I trusted Coach Ross would get me back to where I needed to be.”
The Ross Way Works
Rowe’s ascension into A&T folklore is another positive aspect of the program Ross has constructed. Ross is in his seventh season at the helm of the Aggies six track and field programs. He has made four of the programs nationally competitive in men’s and women’s indoor track and men’s and women’s outdoor track.
In April, the men’s outdoor team jumped from a No. 30 ranking to No. 18 in the USTFCCCA Top 25 poll. N.C. A&T has been in the top-25 twice in the poll and it still stands as the only HBCU program to ever crack USTFCCCA’s Top-25. The No. 18 ranking was N.C. A&T’s highest ranking ever and was their first return to the top-25 in two years when they jumped an amazing 71 spots from No. 92 to No. 21 in a week. Rowe was a huge contributor in the 2018 ranking as he ranked in the top-40 in the 100 and 200 events.
“When you see him at practice and competitions he reminds you of someone much older in the sport,” Ross said. “I have to remind myself sometimes that he’s only been running track for about four to five years. He comes to practice and competitions totally focused and always prepared, never letting anything distract him much like Olympic athletes when preparing for their races. I am proud of what he’s accomplished for our institution and program, but I’m very proud of the good decisions he’s making as he becomes a man.”
Rowe’s road to the NCAA championships was paved by showing out at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round in Tampa, Fla., where he ran a personal-best 20.26 in the quarterfinals for the top overall time of the East prelim. He also powered the 4x100-meter relay team to Eugene and put on a show in the semifinals. Rowe was the anchor leg and propelled the Aggies from behind to a second-place finish (39.05) behind heat winner Florida State (39.00).
“Overall this was a very good season for Rodney,” said Ross. “He battled with a few minor injuries after the indoor season but he’s relentless with his goals and preparation. I knew he would bounce back pretty quickly.”
Ross said the 100 and 200 are the two of the toughest events to compete in on the national level. You have to be more mentally tough than physically tough, according to Ross.
“Coaches love athletes that can handle adversity and gain strength from it,” Ross added. “Rodney’s mental preparation show’s he ready to begin thinking about the next level of track and field. But before that, he owes me a national championship.”