By Chris Branch, The Baltimore Sun
3:09 PM EDT, June 9, 2011
When Dwight Barbiasz attempted the New Hampshire state-record high jump, the entire track meet halted to watch.
Normally, with more eyes comes added pressure. For Barbiasz, it was extra motivation.
He nailed it.
"He told me he wasn't nervous," said Chris Barbiasz, Dwight's father. "He said it helped him jump higher."
The younger Barbiasz isn't one to shrink from a challenge. Coming out of Milford (N.H.) High School, he had plenty of high-profile suitors for his leaping services.
He instead chose a test — and family history — over the glamour of a powerhouse track school. He chose Maryland, a relatively dormant track program at the time.
"I definitely like the challenge," Barbiasz said. "I feel like right now I'm representing myself, my family and my team, and my whole school."
Barbiasz will be representing the gamut of his allegiances Friday at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
With Barbiasz's help, Maryland track coach Andrew Valmon is trying to resuscitate the Terps track program from the ashes. The program hasn't claimed an individual NCAA title since 1979. The team hasn't notched a top-five NCAA finish in 23 years.
Barbiasz has a legitimate shot to curtail the losing streak. But in a sense, he should just be happy to compete.
After earning All-American indoor honors in 2009, Barbiasz had his 2010 outdoor season shortened by an ankle injury.
"I think he's hungry," Valmon said. "Obviously he feels like there's unfinished business."
Chris Barbiasz is no stranger to injuries. During his time as a Terrapins linebacker in the 1970s, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. In all, he went through three knee operations in his career.
Chris said he's talked to Dwight about fighting through the injuries. He's not worried about his son's mindset heading into the championships.
"I sat out a whole year. Sitting in the bleachers was tough. I'll never forgot about it," Chris said. "I could tell the difference and when [Dwight Barbiasz] came in after sitting out a whole year. I could just see the way he was focused on it. He's always been very driven."
Barbiasz boasts a top mark of 7-03.75 so far this season, and has already won the Atlantic Coast Conference outdoor high jump title. He also placed second at thePenn Relays.
He skied into the round of 24 with a 7-01.50 leap — tied for the top mark in the East regional — to advance to the finals.
"The sky is the limit because at this point all of them can jump high," Valmon said. "It's a level playing field. Dwight has a great chance."
Barbiasz said he's not focusing on the field.
"It's just me and the bar," he said. "I just have to worry about myself."
Barbiasz also credits jumps coach Frank Costello with getting him this far. Costello, a former Maryland high jumper, won the indoor and outdoor national titles in the high jump in 1965.
Valmon had to coax him out of retirement to join the program, a move he and Barbiasz both called critical.
"He's had a huge impact," Barbiasz said. "He's made me a student of the sport."
Valmon, Costello and Chris Barbiasz will all be in attendance in Des Moines this weekend. Chris, unlike his son, is admittedly a nervous person. He will often retreat to a higher seat to watch Dwight's meets by himself.
"He gets more nervous than I do," Dwight said.
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