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CROSS COUNTRY: Gators’ Rogers makes long-distance call

Green Valley’s Austin Rogers was a baseball player when he started high school two years ago.

But that all changed when he saw his potential in distance running.

“Baseball players, especially here, don’t go to other sports,” Gators cross country coach Blaine Thompson said. “They just go to the next season, which is baseball year-round. He saw where his bread was buttered. He recognized where his ability was best.”

Rogers’ decision to give up baseball after his freshman year has been rewarding. The junior has become one of the top runners in the state and is the favorite to win the Sunrise Region meet at 1:30 p.m. today at Sunset Park. The Sunset Region and small-school races, also 3.1 miles, will follow every 40 minutes after in descending order of division.

“I feel like I’ve been very consistent this season,” Rogers said. “I’ve been feeling very good the past few races and I’m starting to recover better after races. … Individual-wise, I’m going to go for time. I want to go sub-16:10. Hopefully, I’m up by 30 seconds from the (runner-up).”

Playing in one of the valley’s more prestigious baseball programs, Rogers asked himself what would be more beneficial to his future. Along with Thompson, he saw his potential in running.

At that point, Rogers decided he was going all-in and joined track and field the following spring to participate in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. Now he’s setting personal records in what seems like every race. On Sept. 27, he recorded his best 3.1-mile time of 16:04 at the Falcon Invitational.

“(Track) helped me progress individually and it’s (improved) my mental game as a runner,” Rogers said.

Thompson said: “He wants to go to college, and he thinks his best chance to go is on a scholarship. His own self-appraisal, his own view of himself, is realistic. Most kids don’t have that because they’re kids. He’s got the talent and he’s got a work ethic to go along with it. That’s doesn’t always combine. …

“He’s got a fairly mature outlook and perspective on things coming up. He lives in the moment, but he always has an eye to the future.”

Thompson said Rogers is “good enough to run at a Division I school,” but it will depend largely on his senior season. For now, Rogers wants to improve upon his third-place finish (17:12.8) in last year’s region meet at Veteran’s Memorial Park.

Thompson is confident that will happen. Rogers has been the top runner all season on what many consider the Sunrise’s top team.

“This is the best distance team we’ve ever had at the school,” said Thompson, in his 12th season. “I’ve been coaching track here since the first year (Green Valley) opened, and this is by far the best distance team we’ve ever had.”

Green Valley’s boys have been region runners-up the last two seasons, including a heartbreaking one-point loss to Coronado last year. The Gators are seeking their first region title since 2011.

“That was the goal at the beginning of the season,” Thompson said. “To win a region championship and contend for the state championship. We’re still in the same position we were in the beginning of the year. If our kids run the way they’re capable of running, we should win the region.”

Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at aferguson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.

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