BY CORY NIDOH
Assistant Sports Editor
In sports, leadership is one of the most important characteristic a player can possess and a team can have in a locker room or clubhouse.
Many college programs thrive on having a plethora of seniors on a team who can lead them to the promise land such as the BCS Championship Game in Division I college football, to the National Championship game after outlasting 62 teams in a grueling single elimination tournament in Division I basketball.
Make no mistake about it; leadership from players who have been groomed and experienced in big time games is an advantage.
There are exceptions however. A college team can have a minimal amount of seniors or none at all and make great runs.
Take Zechariah Runkle and the nationally ranked East Stroudsburg University Warriors for example.
After last year’s class of graduates consisting of five seniors including notable players Duane Johnson and Terrance King paced the PSAC East and had another appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament, Jeff Wilson has a talented roster comprised of four freshman, three sophomores, four juniors and just one lone senior in Runkle.
“Runkle brings a lot to the table being the only senior on the team and a captain. On the court he is the voice. He keeps everyone in tune with what it is we’re doing and keeps us focused on the goals we’re trying to accomplish,” said junior guard Whis Grant.
The Harrisburg native is a jack of all trades when it comes to his play on the hardwood. When you look at the box score after an ESU game, you’ll see a line belonging to the forward that most might overlook as it may read: three assists, two blocks, one steal, and six points in 18 minutes played.
Yet, one of those blocks or steals potentially could ignite the highest scoring team in the PSAC in an impressive run to take the lead when down or to put an opponent and the game away for a victory.
The redshirt senior is used to being a contributor off the bench as well as a starter throughout his career.
As a redshirt sophomore, he played sparingly but his junior year he saw his number called in all 29 games as either a starter or coming off the bench.
He was third in rebounds, blocks and tied for third in steals.
This year, Runkle continues to contribute solidly in many statistical categories on both ends of the court.
As a primary starter for Wilson this year, Runkle has been penciled in the starting lineup 23 times in 24 games for the Warriors.
Although just averaging 4.5 PPG, which is his highest mark in his career, he crashes the boards and is second on the team with 120 rebounds—81 of them coming on the defensive side of the court. The forward also has 17 blocks along with 27 steals.
As the lone senior on the team, number 24 provides the senior leadership and stability for the Warriors, who are poised to make another PSAC Championship run after clinching the PSAC East for the second straight year against Bloomsburg back on February 15.
“Runkle is the type of leader you would want on any team. He brings a lot of energy day in and day out,” Grant said.
ESU, (24-1, 14-1) will host the PSAC Tournament Quarterfinals on Tuesday, March 4 as they await the winner between Lock Haven and Millersville.
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