Meilani Rodgers runs toward her goals


Photo courtesy Meilani Rodgers

Freshman Meilani Rodgers

As freshman Meilani Rodgers steps onto the track, she takes a deep breath of the chilly December air. She laces up her Nike running shoes and begins a warm-up lap. Her gray sweatpants and black sweatshirt flap in the breeze. After jogging the warm-up lap, she gets to work on an extensive set of dynamic stretches to get her legs ready for her workout. Then, she takes off her sweatpants and sweatshirt to reveal a pair of black running shorts and a pink long sleeve shirt. She lines up in lane one and runs 400-meter repeats with impossible speed, her strides long and flowing like water. Despite her exhaustion, she keeps going until she finishes her workout. Because of her absolute determination, Rogers has become one of the nation’s top track prospects.

Rodgers, who started running at a young age, is one of the nation’s fastest runners in her age group. She has been invited to and participated in state, regional and national meets as part of the Firebirds Track Club. She has been running for almost 10 years now, under her father’s coaching. Rodgers began running with her father when she was five, then started running competitively at the age of seven. “My dad got me into running. He ran a lot in college, but not competitively,” Rodgers said. 

Rodgers held up a thorough training regiment throughout the summer, after most track events in late spring were canceled. Recently she has been working on long runs that often exceed eight miles. According to Runner’s World Magazine, long runs strengthen muscles, tendons and ligaments, increase stamina and boost confidence.

Rodgers currently qualifies for an NCAA Division II scholarship but has dreams of running competitively at UC Berkeley, the school both of her parents attended. She plans to continue to work hard in both school and on the track to accomplish her dreams. “She’s really determined, more than most people, because when she wants to accomplish something she’ll do it,” freshman teammate Tori Ketzler said.

Rogers used to run the 800 meter, but over time, she has dominated the longer distances such as the 1500 and 1600 meter. “I was really proud of the 1500 meter I did earlier this year because that time qualified me for nationals,” Rodgers said.

When she’s not running, Rodgers likes to do science experiments with her parents, play soccer and spend time with friends. She currently plays travel soccer for Bethesda Soccer Club, participates in both Debate and Model UN and took part in the virtual soccer season. “She’s a really good teammate to have,” Ketzler said.

Over the summer, Rodgers had multiple setbacks that delayed her progress as an athlete. One of her biggest setbacks was a sprained ankle. According to Rodgers, she sprained her ankle playing soccer with a group of friends, then sprained it again after she thought it had healed. Despite setbacks, she still loves track and tries to improve upon herself every time she runs. “If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to man-up, stop putting off practicing and stop complaining about running,” Rodgers said.