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Decatur High track star commits to University of Pennsylvania

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Decatur High track star commits to University of Pennsylvania

Ben Markham preparing to run for the Takeoff Track Club team at a 2023 meet. Photo Courtesy of Ben Markham.

By David McFarland, contributor 

Decatur, GA — Decatur High School track star Ben Markham has committed to the University of Pennsylvania and will start his career there this fall.

Markham has been a regular on the DHS Track Team for years, while also starring for the Takeoff Track Club team, where he won the 4×400 meter relay at the Nike Indoor Nationals 2023 and received a Nike sponsorship for the upcoming edition of the tournament. 

Such accomplishments caught the eye of UPenn, which offered Markham a spot at the school and on its team. He’s now committed, citing the school’s strong balance of academics and athletics.

“UPenn is unique because it is known for its track team, which I thought was cool,” Markham said. “The university is also building some new, exciting facilities for the track team, which also speaks to how its team will continue to grow throughout the years. And, of course, I think the coaches are great and will help me become the best athlete I can be.” 

Markham’s journey to this point has been a long one, featuring quite a few bumps and delays along the way.

“Injury has been my largest obstacle,” Markham said. He missed half of the 2023 season but continued looking for alternative ways to train to stay strong, mentally and physically. Such dedication more than paid off. “Once I was healthy again, I was equally as confident and ready to race as I was before.”

Struggles made Markham into the runner and person he is today. Not only has he benefitted athletically, but off the track as well. \

“My favorite part of track is the discipline and structure that it adds to my life,” he said. “Track has taught me discipline, even when not running. The experience I have gained from track has helped me become more organized and grounded in my everyday life.” 

That mindset and mental strength have led to quite a few memorable peaks in Markham’s track career, such as his 2023 Nike Indoor Nationals performance.

“Winning the 4×400 relay was an especially big accomplishment for me because it was something I could share with my teammates,” he said. “Winning individual races is exciting, but knowing that each of my teammates worked their hardest to get to that point and understanding the mutual love throughout the team is a great feeling, especially when all of our teamwork comes to fruition. Each and every person on the team wants to be there and wants to get better.”

His Nike sponsorship, meanwhile, is a validation of his years of hard work.

“Being recognized for what I have put into this sport is a great feeling and has fueled me to keep chasing my goals,” Markham said.

Markham has also been a part of Decatur’s school track team, which hoisted a region championship in 2023. It’s the state championship, however, that stands out to him, where the team travels and stays together for a day amidst the mayhem of the season’s deciding meet.

“A specific memory I’m fond of is when a few teammates and I went to IHOP late at night, starving after the meet, and ate some of the best food we have ever had,” he said. “I have grown as a part of the team thanks to my teammates, who have helped me understand what a good teammate looks like and have taught me that unconditional support is crucial in helping someone attain their goals. Through spending time with such great teammates, I have developed a greater sense of how to be more supportive myself.” 

Along with his fellow runners, Markham’s coaches are important to his development. The coaches put Markham and his teammates, who have turned into his best friends over the years, through one grueling workout after another in Takeoff practices, but they’re also there to support the team, too.

“Even when times are tough, I have a great group of supporters in my corner. The passion that they instill in the athletes is like none other,” said Markham. “They bring the heat every day and hold us to a high standard. I would not trade anything for my club team.” 

Markham has big plans for his college career.

“My goal is to win the NCAA Championships in the 800-meter dash,” he said. “I think my high school coaches have set me up well to achieve this goal.”

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