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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Running on determination

    Arizona sophomore Christina Rodgers kicks back at Drachman Stadium Tuesday afternoon.
    Arizona sophomore Christina Rodgers kicks back at Drachman Stadium Tuesday afternoon.

    After developing tendonitis in her hip, Christina Rodgers’ track and field career was hindered in high school. But with the support of her family and her uncanny desire, Rodgers made a comeback and sprinted to success at the UA. She hasn’t slowed down since.

    As Christina Rodgers lined up for the 800-meter run at Saturday’s Jim Click Shootout, she leaned a bit too far forward before the gun went off. As she tried desperately to pull herself back to avoid the false start, she looked over at the official and paused, waiting to see him raise the red flag to mark her disqualification. But the flag never went up and Rodgers took off just in time to run down the field and win the race.

    The scene seems to be a pretty accurate representation of Rodger’s track and field career to date. The UA sophomore from Phoenix raised many recruiters’ eyebrows after her quick start on the track and field circuit during her standout freshman year at Central High School. But participating in three sports took its toll on Rodgers’ body and during her sophomore year she developed a case of tendonitis in her left hip that hindered her performance.

    This was followed by a badly bruised Achilles tendon during her junior season, which also inhibited her skills. In a matter of those two years, the recruit had fallen off the map.

    But one of the biggest things Rodgers has going for her is her dedication to being the best she can be. She came out her senior year looking to make a difference. Her coach had her perform well enough to qualify for the state meet at the end of the year. But without the quality times that come from going all out, Rodgers was still left without any scholarship offers.

    It wasn’t until the 2006 Arizona Meet of Champions that Rodgers put her name back on the map. It was the last meet of Rodgers’ senior season and she was to compete against fellow Arizona high school standout Kari Hardt in the 800-meter dash.

    “”Usually people would just let her go and (they) would just compete for second,”” Rodgers said. “”I just ran after her and I didn’t care. I was going to fight for it.””

    Rodgers ended up shaving five seconds off her personal best and finished right behind Hardt, now a competitor at ASU. The performance was good enough to garner the attention of the UA coaching staff, though, and they wasted no time giving Rodgers an offer.

    Other schools noticed the performance as well and offers from ASU, Texas Christian and Tennessee State soon followed. But Rodgers fell in love with the UA campus on her visit and liked the system UA head coach Fred Harvey had to offer. Soon she was in Harvey’s office with her father signing her letter of intent.

    “”(Christina) works harder – and I know a lot of coaches say this – but she works harder than any athlete I have ever coached,”” Harvey said. “”She has this ability to will herself to do certain things.””

    When asked about her coach’s praise, Rodgers said she is just grateful she can run like she does and that helps her visualize her goals more easily.

    “”I just go out there and see myself doing things,”” she said. “”Like at the Last Chance Meet I was walking around and just thinking about telling everyone that I had qualified for nationals.””

    Rodgers did just that, setting a new personal record in the 800m and granting herself a spot in the NCAA Indoor Championships where she would eventually finish in 12th place. Rodgers has consistently found herself placing near the top three in most of her 800m events this season and she and Harvey both have their sights set on equally impressive 1,500m runs.

    But Rodgers will be the first to tell you her success has everything to do with her very supportive family. Her father, James Rodgers, never missed one of her high school meets. Even if he missed her performance because he was late, he would still stick around and watch the rest of the meet.

    James made sure Christina attended all of her workouts, even if he had to go with her, using the opportunity to train himself. On the Easter of his daughter’s senior year of high school, he even went so far as to wake her up at 5 a.m. so they could get in her scheduled eight-hour run before church.

    “”My family atmosphere was just built around us kids succeeding at anything we wanted to try,”” she said. “”I know half the stuff I’ve done I would not have been able to without their support.””

    Even at her young age, Rodgers has already shown the will and desire to bring big things to the program.

    “”Christina is a great person, a great friend and a wonderful athlete,”” said teammate Irine Lagat. “”She’s only a sophomore but she’s bringing so much to the table in terms of running.””

    While Rodgers shares most track athlete’s common goal of eventually making it to the Olympics, she said that she wants to earn All-American honors and a national championship first. She also maintains a 3.6 grade point average as she works toward a degree in physiology. She hopes to get involved in physical therapy, occupational therapy or go to medical school.

    “”You only have so much time to do both (school and track) so I’m going to get as much out of them as I can,”” she said. “”The better I do in school, then the more I can focus on track. And the better I do at track makes me feel more at ease so I can concentrate on school.””

    As far as her experience at the UA, Rodgers said coming to Tucson may have been the best decision of her life. It led her to a group of people who believe in her, she said, and that has helped her with her success and led to her own personal outlook on life.

    “”I feel that things will fall into place as long as you work on it until they come together,”” she said. “”The only way you’ll ever fail in life is if you don’t try.””

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