Likas | Salt Fork's Rogers stays busy as three-sport fall athlete

Likas | Salt Fork's Rogers stays busy as three-sport fall athlete

Even in an era of specialization, multi-sport high school athletes aren't impossible to find. That's especially true in east central Illinois' smaller communities.

What Dawson Rogers is undertaking goes a step further.

The Salt Fork senior already offered a triple threat not only to the Storm, but also for nearby Oakwood, as Rogers has been a staple of the schools' boys' soccer co-op since it started his freshman year.

He also began kicking duties for Salt Fork football as a 10th-grader. And his Storm track and field career still needs one more chapter.

Something changed for Rogers earlier this year, though.

After he placed fifth in the Class 1A 800-meter run at the 2018 boys' track state finals, college coaches began showing interest.

Rogers' response? Take up cross-country this fall.

Which other athletic outlet — soccer or football — would be cast aside to free up some time? Neither.

Rogers is a three-sport athlete in the fall season, balancing practices, games and meets associated with a pair of Oakwood/Salt Fork co-ops and the Storm's gridiron group.

"I think it's kind of like an honor because with most school boards ... you'd never really get the chance to do three sports (at once)," Rogers said. "I'm setting an example to other kids that you can do this if you just put your mind to it."

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Rogers did get a little push when trying to decide how he'd capitalize on his recent running success.

Phil Surprenant is the Salt Fork track and field coach, but he also took over the cross-country co-op with Oakwood this year. That provided Rogers with an ideal opportunity.

"We've always had a close relationship," Rogers said. "I kind of expected what was going to go into training this summer. I put in 250 miles over the summer to get ready."

Surprenant made clear to Rogers that if he was serious about reaching the next level in track, cross-country would be a crucial tool for training and college recruiting.

"It's not something that I think would work in most cases," Surprenant said. "But he's kind of a unique kid."

Prior to the fall season, Surprenant got together with O/SF boys' soccer coach Eric Fenton and Storm football coach Brian Plotner to work out a feasible training slate for Rogers.

Rogers often will get his cross-country workouts done in the morning, boot the football right after school and head to soccer practice following that.

It doesn't always line up that way. Fenton said Rogers showed up to one soccer activity about an hour after it began — because Rogers had just finished an 8-mile jaunt.

"I'm not going to run him more than that," Fenton said. "So I knew it wasn't going to be a problem to have him in shape."

This always-on-the-go lifestyle would exhaust a majority of folks. Rogers doesn't fall into that mold.

"It was a little tiring at the beginning because the first two weeks (of each season) were also about conditioning and being in shape," Rogers said. "But once school started, it wasn't as big a deal."

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Soccer was Rogers' first love, an event he recalls trying at age 4.

"My dad was a big football player in high school, but he wasn't really one to push me for playing football," Rogers said. "I just picked up soccer because as a little kid, I wasn't as big as the rest (of the kids). I really loved it and stuck with it."

Fenton has watched Rogers develop through each year of O/SF soccer. His analysis? Rogers is "one of the better players that I've ever coached."

"I've had a good number of players ... play some level of college soccer after high school, and he definitely would be among the upper of the group," Fenton said. "He's just, year in and year out, gotten better and better and better."

Rogers boasted six goals and five assists entering this weekend's action. His career statline on the pitch is 23 goals and 16 helpers.

"I just wanted to have a fun last season as a senior and enjoy it," Rogers said.

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After some persuasion from Plotner and others around the Salt Fork football outfit, Rogers extended his kicking abilities to that sport as a sophomore.

In 11th grade, he converted 26 extra points and two field goals for the 5-5 Storm. Rogers' senior campaign has gotten off to a fine start as well, with five PATs and a 34-yard field goal in Salt Fork's 3-0 start.

"He's just done a really tremendous job," Plotner said. "He's just a tremendous young man who has a good head on his shoulders."

Football brings an important element to Rogers' athletic life that goes beyond passion for the sport.

"It's just the atmosphere," he said. "The fans, the hype, the type of thing around the players. Whenever it's a big field goal or extra point we need, I love the pressure and the excitement going into it."

Perhaps not a surprise considering Rogers is a three-sport star in the fall alone, he enjoys having some weight placed on his shoulders. For Rogers, this separates football from soccer.

"Soccer, it's just multiple touches on the ball. Football, you're just waiting on the opportunity to kick," he said. "There's a difference between missing a goal and missing an extra point. You get multiple chances in soccer."

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Now, both soccer and football have taken a backseat to cross-country. Those coaches marvel at what Rogers is able to accomplish.

"I wasn't sure if it was going to be possible," Fenton said. "It's worked out pretty well."

"I would never have guessed there could be somebody that could do three sports," Plotner added. "What I think he does for all three is (be) an impact player and contributor."

Rogers has jumped full-bore into long-distance running, though his competitive career got off to a rocky start at the Sept. 1 Chrisman Cow Chip Classic when he stumbled shortly after clocking a first mile of 5 minutes, 9 seconds.

Luckily, Rogers is still rolling through his usual schedule.

"It's not like he's putting in just a couple hours here, a couple hours there," Surprenant said. "He's working his butt off in every aspect to be the best he can possibly be."

It's all in preparation for increasing college interest on top of looks from Illinois, Ohio State, Purdue, Illinois State and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

"Honestly, it prepares me for college," said Rogers, who maintains a GPA better than 4.0. "It kind of makes me more mature, I guess, to help with prioritizing all the stuff I have to get done."

There's only one question remaining for Rogers: When does he get a respite?

"Once all these sports are off, I'm taking a two-week break from everything," Rogers said. "Then I'll hop right on that winter track schedule and start training super hard. I have to stay on top of it."

Preps coordinator Colin Likas writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at clikasNG.

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