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The Many Journeys of Bam

Markeal Williams, otherwise known as “Bam”, has been running track and field since he was five years old in south Florida and is now one of the stars of Oakland University track and field as a decathlete.


Full podcast interview with Williams available via WXOU's, "The GioMoShow" .


Journey To Oakland’s Track


He got his nickname of “Bam” from two sources: One of them being from his mom calling him “Bam Bam” because of his habit of banging pots and pans when he was only two years old. The other was from his coach in high school, where Williams fell on a hurdle so hard, his coach called him just “Bam” from how hard he fell.


Unlike some track and field athletes that played multiple sports, since the athleticism of track and field lends itself to other sports easily, Williams has been almost exclusively track and field his whole life.


“Fun fact about me: I am the most unathletic athletic person there is. I have no hand-eye coordination, I cannot shoot a basketball, I can barely catch a football,” Williams said. “I played soccer for two days. I made the team just because I was fast. Could not dribble the ball, could not kick, couldn’t do anything. I’m not athletic, I’m just fast and strong.”


He was originally going to commit to the University of South Florida, but plans changed. A month before Williams was planning to commit, most of the coaching staff that recruited him got fired, leaving him little time to decide which school he will attend.


Deciding between schools like Kennesaw State and Western Carolina, he remembered his visit to Oakland, where head coach Katrina Brumfield made a very good impression on Williams.


“The main thing was the coach, Katrina Brumfield. She was really nice, like she spoiled me on my visit. She was so sweet and I was like, ‘Ok, if she’s gonna be like that the whole time, I want to be where she is.’”


Coach Brumfield shared her thoughts from the visit.


“We kind of hit it off just from a personality standpoint. It was easy for us to trade jokes back and forth. We had that comfortability right away. I knew


the moment he stepped on campus he was going to be a character and he did not disappoint.”



With the deadline approaching quickly, Williams had to make a decision, so he went off of the great impression of Brumfield, hoping that the rest of the staff and team were similar to her.


“So I picked Oakland and it was the greatest decision I ever made,” said Williams.


Journey Through Oakland’s Track


After moving up north to Auburn Hills from his home in Florida, Williams says that he adjusted very quickly to being away from home.


“I like to think that my parents prepared me for whatever,” Williams said. “I went through a little bit of a homesick phase, as one does, but I adapted pretty well, quickly, and that’s because my parents kind of cured me up to be prepared for adversity from when I was yay big.”



Since becoming a golden grizzly, Williams has made a great impression on his teammates and coaches.


“He definitely captures the energy in the room. Just a vibrant personality,” said Eddie Harrell, current teammate and distance runner. “Bam is somebody that everyone respects. He always brings a smile to practice or to a meet. He’s always encouraging and that helps people, especially younger people who get nervous at meets or get nervous at practice, or don’t really know how to navigate the athletic and school life.”


Coach Brumfield had similar things to say.


“I think Bam is the model athlete that you want to have. I’m not saying he’s perfect, he has human days,” Brumfield said. “But he’s a leader. He has the ability to connect all across event groups and when he speaks, people listen. And that’s a talent, not everybody can do that, not everybody wants to listen to everybody. He just puts his head down, he’ll grind and work.”


Journey To The Decathlon


Since Williams was 11 years old, he has been competing in the 110m hurdles and long jump events. However, frustration was growing with those events throughout his freshman season and his coach noticed.


In an effort to keep his spirits and interest in the sport alive, they both agreed to have him compete in the decathlon with only 10 days left to train for the event before the championship meet.


“From my perspective, he was just so frustrated with things, he was like ‘Well, why not?’” Brumfield said. “His club coach gave me some insight that he had some ability in there.”


What makes the decathlon so tough is that it is ten events counted as one. It includes the 100m, 400m, 1500m, 110m hurdles, long jump, high lump, shot put, discus throw, javelin throw, and pole vault.


“It’s a testament to his work ethic, his mindset, his fearless attitude,” Brumfield said. “Because you don’t do that unless you have a little bit of fearlessness and aso a little bit of crazy.”


Since making the switch, his training has changed dramatically. Instead of one training session a day along with weightlifting like he did for hurdles and long jump, he was training two or three times a day with weightlifting on top of that!


“Being a decathlete is a whole other beast from being like a regular track and field athlete because you're essentially practicing to be every event,” Williams said.


Journey to the Present


Since he was converted into a decathlete and did not have much throwing experience before that, some decathletes have an advantage in those events. During the indoor season however, the decathlon is adapted to the heptathlon where there are fewer throwing events and Williams can play more to his strengths.


With that, Williams was able to place 2nd in the HL Indoor Championships.


For this outdoor season, Williams’ goal is to improve in his throwing events to stay close to his indoor placement.


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