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Courtesy photo

Cross country: Rodgers hits stride in college

Profile image for By Steve Gamel / For the Denton Record-Chronicle
By Steve Gamel / For the Denton Record-Chronicle
Ryan product Logan Rodgers, left, competes in a cross country meet for Trevecca Nazarene this fall.Courtesy photo
Ryan product Logan Rodgers, left, competes in a cross country meet for Trevecca Nazarene this fall.
Courtesy photo

Pinned along the left side of a tri-fold board in Logan Rodgers’ bedroom are race bibs from the seven cross country meets he ran in during his senior year at Ryan.

Rodgers, a 2013 graduate, is proud of each of those bibs, which are accompanied on the white board by a collage of photos celebrating his time as a Raider. But Rodgers is the first to say that seven races aren’t much to brag about.

“Most athletes would probably have hundreds of these [bibs],” said Rodgers, now 18.

But perhaps no one else made so much of so few races.

It was after that seventh high school meet that Rodgers was recruited by Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tenn. Because of his lack of seasoning, he hadn’t received any other college offers.

“I could put off Division I times, but they [college coaches] didn’t look at me because they may have been thinking it was a freak thing,” Rodgers said.

TNU coaches saw something in him and did what no one else would.

Rodgers just completed his first college cross country season and was named freshman of the year by the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.

Rodgers broke the TNU record in the 8-kilometer race. His time of 25:57.02 at the Blue Ridge Open — hosted by Appalachian State on Oct. 18 — beat the previous record by 28 seconds. In November, he posted an unofficial time of 24:37 at a USA Track and Field Junior Olympic qualifying meet.

He’ll begin the track season after Christmas break and already has his sights set on competing at nationals and eventually becoming an All-American.

“My parents always told me to experience as much as I could while I was still in high school and have no regrets,” Rodgers said. “Running didn’t seem like the most fun thing at first, and I was so clueless when it came down to the strategy of it. But I’m a competitive person and I knew I could very well like it and be good at it if I just tried it.”

His path to collegiate stardom wasn’t typical.

Rodgers didn’t catch the eye of Ryan track coach Janson Head until late in his junior year. He was on the soccer team and had no aspirations of being a runner.

But during a time trial for the soccer team, Rodgers ran the mile in 4:56.

The time caught everyone by surprise, and Rodgers was met by a groundswell of support from coaches and teammates — all begging him to give track a try.

“My friends really had been nagging me for a while; they all thought I was good enough to one day run collegiately,” Rodgers said. “Eventually the track coach talked me into it.”

Track season was at its midway point, which meant Rodgers would need to juggle both sports. He didn’t mind, and despite the busy schedule, he fell in love with track.

“The pivotal point for me was that first race. They put me on junior varsity and had me run the mile,” he said. “I won the race, but it was funny because everyone could tell just how inexperienced I was since I went out on the first lap like it was a sprint. I knew nothing about pace and was running it like I was only running a 400 or something. It just showed my immaturity, but as time wore on I kept learning.”

For his senior year, Logan added cross country and was still juggling soccer and track. He also had been named co-drum major of the band. His schedule was hectic.

On more than one occassion, he ran in a morning track meet and drove across town to play in a soccer game. One weekend, he competed in a district meet and flew to Odessa that afternoon to lead the band.

“I always said Logan was born running,” said Carla Rodgers, Logan’s mom. “He ran for sticks in PE class when he was little, and he was always in sports. He’d go from fall soccer to basketball to spring soccer, then do camps in the summer. With soccer, we always said he played ‘Logan Ball’ because he played everyone else’s position. So I wasn’t surprised he loved the running, because he was already doing it.”

Despite his natural ability, Rodgers was overshadowed in high school. He was up against athletes who had years of experience in track and cross country. Some of those runners were drawing attention from Division I programs like North Carolina and Mississippi, he said.

“I always tried to learn from those guys in high school because some of them were just crazy good and were eventually state and national champions,” Rodgers said. “I could pace with them for the most part, but I was so new. I liked being able to ask them about their racing strategies so I could get better. It was cool because I ended up crossing paths with a few of them in college at various meets.”

Even though he’s made a name for himself in college, Rodgers says there have been growing pains. He still feels he is in a constant state of learning, and he has had to contend with a few teammates who were not patient with his newfound success.

“There was one guy who had been running for nine years and just didn’t understand how or why I knew so little,” Rodgers said. “All I knew was I could run and I wanted to do what I could for my teammates.”

For a relative newbie, that’s all any teammate can ask for.

“They [TNU] were willing to develop me, and I loved that,” Rodgers said. “I may not know everything and some of the lingo may still be foreign to me, but I know how to run and I love it.”