A second call was made over the public-address system at the 51st annual Bob Shaner Track and Field Invitational at Tumwater High School on May 8, requesting the top finishers in the boys 110-meter hurdles make their way to the podium to receive their medals.
Casually, the athletes begin to filter in, and after a few minutes the top eight participants are announced in reverse order before being handed their hardware.
Yelm’s James Rodeman, the winner of the event, is nowhere to found.
“Yeah, he’s over doing pole vault,” divulged Rodeman’s sophomore teammate Kaleb Lunderville, who finished fourth in the 110 hurdles.
Rodeman is difficult to catch on the track but, as it turns out, it’s equally complicated to reel him in between events.
The talented senior who an hour later would be a no-show at the medal presentation for the pole vault, too — an event he also won — is about as busy as you’ll find during a meet, racing back and forth from event to event.
It’s a finely-tuned — albeit hectic — schedule, but that’s the life of a decathlete.
Name an event — whether it falls under track or field, it doesn’t matter — and odds are Rodeman is competing in it. And usually excelling at it.
Rodeman will try to capture multiple titles at the 4A West Central District 3 meet Thursday and Saturday at Kent-Meridian High’s French Field, and while he’ll have solid shots at accomplishing that — he ranks third in 4A in the long jump (22 feet, 7 1/2 inches), eighth in the 110 hurdles (14.57 seconds) and tied for ninth in the pole vault (14 feet) — his future lies in the decathlon.
In addition to the 110 hurdles (he placed fourth at last year’s 4A state meet) and long jump — his top jump of 22-7 1/2 is the second best in 4A this season — Rodeman also needs to prepare for the 100-, 400- and 1,500-meter races, shot put, high jump, discus, pole vault and javelin.
Those 10 events comprise the decathlon, which has grown in popularity among local high school athletes over recent years.
“Meets are more like practices for me,” Rodeman said.
Understandably so, as you can only squeeze so much activity into a regular practice.
“You can’t focus on just one event,” Rodeman said. “You need to be well rounded in everything. It’s what I love about the decathlon.”
Three years ago, however, Rodeman had little knowledge something like the decathlon existed.
Rodeman’s experience in track mainly centered around hurdles when he started high school, but Yelm track and field coach Mike Strong quickly urged him to widen his scope.
“Coach Strong said he saw potential in me,” Rodeman said. “I didn’t really know too much about what went into the decathlon. I just went with the flow. Now it’s my passion.”
It’s an enthusiasm Rodeman hasn’t been shy about sharing with his Tornados teammates.
“It’s like having a second coach out there in practice,” said Lunderville, whose time of 15.14 in the 110 hurdles is the fourth fastest among 4A sophomore competitors in the state this year. “He’s always pushing you. When it’s time to train, he’s completely focused.”
Last summer, a little more than a year after he began his career as a decathlete, Rodeman was in Texas earning All-America honors at the United States Junior Olympic National Track and Field Championships, where he placed fifth in the 17-18 age group with a score of 6,003 points.
That total has increased since then as in April he tallied a career-best 6,337 at the Arcadia Invitational near Los Angeles, setting personal records in the 100, 400 and pole vault.
Those numbers quickly drew the attention of college programs, including Idaho State University, which recently received Rodeman’s signed letter of intent.
“There’s really no offseason,” said Rodeman, who was also a 4A state wrestling participant in the 160-pound classification this year. “You’re always training, whether it’s lifting or just working on technique. It’s all somewhat centered on explosiveness. If you have that explosiveness, it’s going to help in every event.”
Since last year’s West Central District championships, Rodeman has trimmed a half-second off his 110 hurdles time, added more than two feet to his long jump and cleared 14 feet in the pole vault.
“He just seems to be great at everything,” said Yelm freshman Frankie Morrill, a budding track star in her own right who captured the girls 100 hurdles at the Shaner Invite. “He makes everything look so easy.”