Next Man Up: Clement keeping Deptford among track’s elite

For the second straight winter, Deptford senior Donovan Clement was part of the Spartans State Group 2 relay championship team, collecting a first place medal in the 4X200 with John Adams, Richeid Fawkes and Steven Rios last month. Clement’s 6.63 in the 55-meter dash is the third fastest in South Jersey this winter. (RYAN LAWRENCE/South Jersey Sports Weekly)

Gone are the Smith brothers (Naseem and Kh’ion), Tyrece Brown, Amadu Jalloh and Jake Lynch, Donnie Scott and Marcel Washington, Tyriq Bundy and Javon Sanders, too. 

The first outdoor state championship track team in the history of Deptford Township High School graduated a star-studded group of athletes, many of whom won individual state titles throughout their prep careers, too, and are competing in college.

But the Spartans’ motto might as well be Next Man Up. Even with Bundy and Sanders, two legs of the 2018 Meet of Champions 4X100 relay team sidelined to injuries last year, Deptford triumphed because of its depth.

All of those names may have walked through the graduation line last June, but the expectations remain high in 2020. In a testament to the program’s strength, head coach Kevin Sherry praised the team’s current depth, despite losing all of those aforementioned athletes.

“Every year is different,” Sherry said. “We knew last year was a special group. But I also feel this year is a special group. One of the things I told them was that last year was last year and now you have your own chance to leave your own legacy and mark on the program. Now it’s up to you to see what you want to do with it. 

“And they’ve stepped up. We ran a faster 4X400 and 4X200 than we did last year. They took that challenge and they’ve worked hard and ran with it.”

One of the current seniors that’s both taken on a leadership role and continued to raise the bar on the track is Donovan Clement. 

Even though three legs of last winter’s 4X200 Group 2 state championship team graduated, Clement won the event for a second straight year, this time with running mates Richeid Fawkes, John Adams, and Steven Rios. Clement’s times could have him primed for a breakout spring, too.

Clement, whose older brother Derrick ran at West Chester University and younger sister Dominique will be a freshman at Deptford next fall, spoke with South Jersey Sports Weekly recently about carrying Deptford’s rich track tradition forward this year.  

SJSW: How is it that Deptford lost all of those really talented seniors but doesn’t seem to have skipped a beat?

Clement: I don’t know, we’ve been working hard at practice, even since last year we saw all the great things that they did, winning All-American and things like that, and we just wanted to keep it going. That’s what we’re doing now. We have to keep the tradition going.

SJSW: What is it about Deptford that guys graduate but the tradition continues?

Clement: It’s what we’re known for. You win a state championship and having that and people know that, you just want to keep doing it. You don’t want to be forgotten.

SJSW: Of all the medals you’ve won this year, do you have a favorite?

Clement: The state medal. It was the 4X200 and we ran basically what we did last year. And the team was all different except me. 

SJSW: There is still a lot of season left. What’s the number one thing you want to do before it’s over?

Clement: I just want to continue to drop my times. With these guys, I want to become All-Americans before it’s all said and done.

SJSW: What’s the difference between being a junior last year and a senior this year, are you taking on more of a leadership role?

Clement: Definitely. You want to set a good example. 

SJSW: Are you a big talker?

Clement: No, I’m not really a big talker, I just lead the warmups and stretches and make sure everyone’s on point.

SJSW: When did you begin taking running seriously?

Clement: I would say during my sophomore year. I saw I could do something with this, so I stuck with it and now I’m here. 

SJSW: When you were a freshman you weren’t even sure about track?

Clement: Not really. I wasn’t running great times. (Coach) Sherry just told us, you’re the future, just keep working. And now we’re here.

“He’s explosive,” Deptford coach Kevin Sherry said of senior Donovan Clement. “He’s running really well. He ran a 10.7 last year, a really , really nice time and this year he’s already running faster. So I’m really curious as we progress to outdoor what those 100 and 200 times are going to be.” (RYAN LAWRENCE/South Jersey Sports Weekly)

SJSW: What other sports did you play?

Clement: Football. I was a slot in the corner for two years, I got hurt one year.

SJSW: What other sports did you do as a kid?

Clement: Wrestling, baseball. I was pretty good at baseball. 

SJSW: I have to ask about your height. How tall are you?

Clement: I’m 5-4. 

SJSW: Does that work to your advantage at all?

Clement: Yeah, they underestimate me, I’m always underestimated. I like it. 

SJSW: What’s your favorite event?

Clement: Indoor? The 4X200.

SJSW: How about outdoor?

Clement: Individually? I like the 100.  

SJSW: Do you have an individual goal between now and graduation?

Clement: I want the 100 (school) record. Mar’Quel Davis has it.

SJSW: When you get to the starting line, do you have anything you tell yourself to stay focused or to get ready?

Clement: I tell myself just get out, drive and keep the same tempo. Keep going. Try not to die. 

SJSW: Is the mental game just as important?

Clement: Track is a lot mental. Like if you go into a race and you don’t think you’re going to do good, then you won’t. Your mind tells you what your body is going to do, so you have to tell yourself that you’re going to do good. 

SJSW: Let’s talk about your teammates. Who’s the hardest worker?

Clement: That’s a hard one. There are a lot. We’ve got Phil Sedalis, Richeid Fawkes, Steven Rios. They all work hard. John Adams, too. Julian Rodriguez. There are a lot.

SJSW: Who do you think has improved the most since the spring?

Clement: I would say John (Adams). He got way faster this year.

SJSW: Who is the funniest guy on the team?

Clement: Mikel Hamlet.

SJSW: Smartest?

Clement: Phil (Sedalis).

SJSW: I know you do pretty well in class, too. What’s your favorite subject?

Clement: Math.

SJSW: Favorite teacher at Deptford?

Clement: Sherry. 

SJSW: Favorite movie you’ve seen recently?

Clement: “Bad Boys for Life.”

SJSW: Any TV show your marathoning?

Clement: I like some — and I know I’m so late on it — but “Stranger Things.” I finished it up. And I like “All-American,” too.

SJSW: How about we’re at the medal ceremony after the Meet of Champions and everyone gets to choose the song they walk up to as they collect their medal. What’s your walk-up music?

Clement: Probably one of DaBaby’s songs.