AUBURN, Ala. – It’s been nearly six years since Marcus Rowland’s remarkable sweep of the 100 and 200 meters at the Taco Bell Classic, running what would be the second fastest 100 among all U.S. high school boys in 2008. The Dorman High grad would end his high school career as a two-time state champion in the two events, breaking a long-standing record in the 100 in the process, and earning All-USA team honors.
Now, after an equally impressive but injury-plagued college career that included first team All-American in the 100 and 4x100 relay and second team All-American in the 200, the Auburn University graduate has stepped over to the professional side of the sport he still loves.
“I have the same passion for it now that I had when I first started running track,” Rowland recently told scrunners.com from his home in Auburn. “I’m young and I’m healthy now, so I want to see what happens and see how far I can go.”
He has a new coach at Auburn, women’s sprint coach Henry Rolle, and he is looking forward to the upcoming outdoor season.
“My training is going well and I’m staying healthy,” said Rowland, who celebrated his 24th birthday earlier this month. He had what he described as a “pretty good” indoor season, which wrapped up for him last month at the Knights of Columbus Saskatchewan Indoor Games in Saskatoon, Canada, where Rowland finished first in the 50-meter dash and third in the 60 meter.
“It was a good experience for me. I got to experience a meet from the pro side of track and field,” he said, “the first of many and something I can definitely get used to.”
His outdoor schedule warms up over the next couple of weeks with a meet in Atlanta and a home meet next month in Auburn, events which Rowland said will help him gauge how far his indoor work and training have brought him. His primary goal for the upcoming outdoor season is to break the 10-second mark.
“I’m shooting for a 9.9. If I can do that, I’ll know I had a successful outdoor season,” he said. Getting his time below 10 seconds will not only draw theinterest of more invitationals, but also get the attention of a shoe manufacturer interested in signing a contract with Rowland.
Rowland, who competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials Qualifier in the 100 meters and was a finalist in the 200 meters, said he wants to spend this outdoor season and next year getting into position to qualify for the summer games in Rio in 2016.
“We’re taking it one day at a time, one meet at a time,” he said. His immediate goal is
to get stronger and faster his year and in 2015, and be in position to make the world championships next year. He said he’s going through all of the steps needed to get to Rio.
“I’m on the right track, right now.”
Rowland said the process of transitioning from an amateur to a professional track athlete has been tougher than he expected.
“In college, you have a lot of things that are given to you – your training treatments, equipment, travel. As a pro, you’re on your own; you have to make your own budget,” he said. “You have to learn how to run your own business,” he said, a system he has learned to embrace.
“I like it this way, though it’s taken time to adjust.”
Rowland said he still keeps up with coaches and athletes at Dorman. Several members of the school’s current track team sent him happy birthday wishes via Twitter earlier this month.
“Because of my schedule, I haven’t been able to get to a meet, but I’ve been to a few practices.” He said he still keeps in regular contact with Christopher and Christian Graham, Juan Thompson and Isaiah Lee, the state champion relay team he ran with six years ago.
“We get together at New Year’s and during the summer.”
Rowland said he’s the only member of that group still running competitively. The Spartanburg native said he plans to continue his pro track career at least through the 2016 Olympics, and hopefully beyond. He figures he has around a 10-year window.
“I’ll only be able to run for so long,” he said. “I have my college degree and work will always be there. I’ll compete on the track for as long as I feel passionate about it. It’s something I like to do.”