Ali Johnson is a 5’0” senior sprinter for the Manhattanville College Track and Field team from Fairfield, CT. It was there, back in 2010, where her step-dad told her to give track and field a shot after failing to make her high school’s soccer team. The decision she made was one of the most important decisions she could have made because it has set her life up over the past eight years of competing. From that point on she had the best support group between her parents, sister and step-dad.
Coming into Manhattanville, Johnson was hidden behind the spotlight of star sprinter, Shannon Roberts. Roberts made it to ECAC as well and made it to the NCAA Division III National Championship meet when Johnson was just a sophomore. With that being said, Johnson defined herself as one of the greatest runners in Valiant history. Stepping in as a freshman, Johnson ran the 200-meter dash in a time of 28.03 seconds. That was good enough to help her and her teammates at the 2015 MAC Indoor Championship, after that she would sit out the outdoor season of her freshman year due to injury.
From 28.03 as a freshman, she only got better over the years, running a 200-meter dash of 26.78 seconds. Her 26.78 run was at East Stroudsburg University, which punched her ticket to the 2018 Division III ECAC Championship meet held at the New Balance Armory in Washington Heights, NY on Saturday, Mar. 3. She will go up against the best sprinters in the Northeast region.
After recently catching up with Johnson, as well as her fellow teammates Blake Hagerman, her co-captain, and fellow freshman sprinter Charlie Doherty, who has been taking notes and learning from her hands-on throughout practicing and watching her race and execute at meets, Johnson was asked what type of mindset she has going into ECAC and she continuously said how happy and excited she was. This is, perhaps, one of her biggest accomplishments ever. She has her eyes set forward and looks to take advantage of these past eight years of training and looks to go out and give her best in her last ever indoor track meet.
Being one of the best runners comes with a lot of responsibility, such as being a leader. Johnson has been Manhattanville’s captain for the past two years and hassled by example on and off the track. But with all that, she still has remained one of the humblest runners out there, taking every opportunity with a grain of salt and not taking anything for granted. Johnson has constantly been a supporter and role model for her teammates whether it be at practice, a meet, or even a meal she has made her impact and presence be known by the team. When asking Doherty about Johnson and his experience with her and being a teammate of hers for a short time period, he emphasized on the fact that she is a leader and big role model.
“Ali sets such a good example on how to get the best out of yourself, she’s taught me no matter what, never give up and always push through.” said Doherty.
Doherty also stated that watching her run and seeing her fight through her injuries this season that “it is the type of heart I want to have over the upcoming years I have here,” It is obvious that Johnson has an impact on and off the track, and that’s where her other teammate, classmate and fellow co-captain Blake Hagerman comes in. Hagerman and Johnson met back in 2014 on their recruiting visits where they would both commit and spend the next four years together as teammates.
Speaking with Hagerman, he too emphasizes the fact that Johnson will do whatever it takes to get the best out of herself. He recalls one time at practice during a high intensity workout that she was talking about her shin splints, but that didn’t stop her from finishing the workout and persevering.
“Her heart and desire to always come up in big situations,” said Hagerman. When at a track meet, usually athletes are tall, lengthy, strong individuals running certain events. When you see Johnson on the line before a race, she’s usually the shortest one out there standing at five feet tall. When Johnson, runs her powerful explosive quick strides make up for the length that she lacks. She also is one of the quickest out of the blocks having one of the best reactions to hearing the gun go off and powering out of the start blocks. Qualifying for ECAC isn’t just about the heart and drive there is when competing, but it has to do with more than that, like the off the track work ethic and passion everyone shows. If you went to anyone on the track and field team here, you can see it in the way they talk about Johnson, she is willing to do whatever it takes to be the best one out there.
It isn’t about the size of the athlete, it’s about the heart that the athlete has, and Johnson has a bigger heart than anyone else. And that is one of the reason she qualified for ECAC and hopes to continue to turn heads heading into the outdoor season. Although everything might not have been so easy as it is for others, Johnson has fought through the injuries, fought through the hardships, but most of all, she has defined her own legacy as one of the greatest track athletes this school has ever seen.