Pam Pack running backs use speed to keep title dreams alive

Published 1:11 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS DYNAMIC DUO: Seniors and former Pack Pack running backs Markel Spencer and Stepfon Rodman compete in the 100-meter dash last week in Washington.

DYNAMIC DUO: Seniors and former Pack Pack running backs Markel Spencer and Stepfon Rodman compete in the 100-meter dash last week in Washington.

Four months ago, senior Markel Spencer put the Pam Pack offense on his back, his legs being the ultimate difference in his team’s 14-win season and postseason run. His counterpart, Stepfon Rodman, also a senior, was a running back used to supplement Spencer in long-yardage situations.

The duo, along with a shutdown defense, rallied the support of a community en route to the state championship, before the Pam Pack eventually fell by one point to East Lincoln in the title game. For fans, the excitement of the title run and the disappointment brought on by the finish has all but fizzled away. But for Spencer and Rodman, they’ve kept on running, the culmination of the football season simply being a bend in the road. Fundamentally, the goal of a ring has not changed.

“Two years in a row we ended our football season without a state championship,” said head track and field coach Jon Blank, who is also the football team’s defensive coordinator. “Last spring, these guys were talking about getting a team ring in track … This year, they’re even more focused on getting a ring because they know this is their last chance. No matter what ended up happening in football, win of lose, we felt like we were going to get one this spring” in track.

Of course, the appeal of a state championship in track and field is no where near that of football, but with the looming graduation of not only Spencer and Rodman, along with a collection of others who suited up for the 2014 2-A state runner-ups, it’s a last chance scenario, one that is hardly out of reach.

Last season, Washington took second-place in regionals and fifth place in states, posting 34 points. Names like Stevie Green, Myron Brooks, Karim Topping and Victor Santos garnered some attention. Yet, at the end of the day, there was just one Pam Pack athlete who departed from Greensboro with silver metal around is finger.

In his first season of track and field, Rodman’s time of 49.05 seconds made the Pam Pack running back the fastest 400-meter runner in the state, a title that has carried over first-hand experience, regional recognition and confidence into this season.

“(He has) the experience of winning the big race,” Blank said. “He’s shown tremendous focus for that. I remember last year he really didn’t know much about track to begin with, but he never lost the 400-meter dash all season, yet you wouldn’t know that by the way he carries himself — a quiet confidence. When he shows up to the start line, he knows he’s going to win.”

While having a series of top-three finishes in the 100- and 200-meter dash this season, Rodman has continued to blow away the competition in the 400-meter run. Against Beddingfield in Wilson on March 18, he posted a season-best 50.64, beating the No. 2 finisher by about four seconds.

In a bit of a role reversal from the gridiron to the Tartan track, it’s Spencer who has complimented Rodman. The former 5,000-yard rusher for the Pam Pack, a four-year track letterman, notched three wins in as many 200-yard dash attempts this season with his season-best time (22.44) coming last week in the second Eastern Plains Conference meet. The production of the dual running back set has translated from the football field to the track, thus far, but the pair is seeking more than just individual, regular season success.

“These two guys go about their business the way they’re supposed to, so they see it by example as well. That is important for us,” Blank said. “Both of these guys, their egos aren’t too big. Every now and then they both get a little overconfident, but they don’t walk around like they’re better than anybody. They do their work and at the end of the day, they’re faster than everybody. That’s what we like.”

On the road to Greensboro, Blank expects other former football players like Brooks (hurdles), Diavonrei Moore (hurdles) and Javon Whitney (long jump and triple jump) to be key senior contributors moving forward. And with the help of Spencer and Rodman, Washington’s 4×200-meter relay team currently holds the fastest recorded time in the state.

Washington will travel to Farmville to take on the Jaguars tomorrow at 4 p.m.