Two years removed from the ambivalence American Heritage eighth grader Daesha Rogers held toward cross-country, Rogers will line up at the FHSAA state finals at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee on Saturday, as a Class 2A state title co-favorite along with Pine Crest freshman Julia Montgomery.
While other state title contenders will peruse flrunners.com for rivals’ times leading up to the state finals, Rogers, a national track phenom, will spend much of her free time watching the Disney Channel.
“I’m ready for the state finals because I’m ready for the season to be over,” Rogers, 13, said. “I like track better, but I’ve grown to like cross-country a little bit. The bottom line is I don’t like to lose in anything. I’m a sore loser. When I’m on the course, I go completely blank and run my hardest.”
Rogers, Montgomery, St. Thomas Aquinas freshman Alexa Cruz (4A) and Coral Glades’ Anthony Deleva (4A) lead Broward’s quest to break an individual state title drought that dates back to Cooper City’s Jessica Hellender in 2001.
Rogers initially balked at picking up cross-country in the sixth grade, but relented after some prodding by her parents Dave Rogers and Kiska Sanders.
To her credit, Daesha Rogers hasn’t allowed any reservations she has about cross-country dim a renowned competitive streak that could land her at the top of the podium on Saturday.
As a sixth grader, Rogers was projected as a top-five finisher at states but an insect bite cut her season short. In her state finals debut a season ago, Rogers was in position to win in the last mile but faded to a second-place finish on the final steep climb.
To bring home the title this time, Rogers, the No. 2 seed (18:58) will most likely have to knock off Jacksonville Bolles’ Mackenzie Wilson (18:47), the top seed, and complete a three-week sweep of Montgomery (19:00).
If it comes down to a three way sprint, as most have predicted, Rogers’ superior foot speed could tilt the outcome in her favor.
Dave Rogers, who has served as Daesha’s part-time coach, said his daughter lives for championship moments.
“Daesha just knows when the big stage is, she knows what she is up against,” Dave Rogers said. “The bigger the race, the harder she goes and harder she performs. It’s her work ethic. That is what separates her. She will give more than most.”