Like all top track stars, Daesha Rogers has seen her name thrust into a regional and then national spotlight. Given a rich background of victories across distances from 100 to 1,500 meters, it's not shocking Rogers would win a relatively typical cross country race. However, that's where the comparisons with every-day runners end. Rogers is an 11-year-old sixth grader, and she just beat some of the best high school cross country talent Florida has to offer.
"This is very big," Rogers told the Miami Herald after winning the Westminster Academy Invitational girls' small-school cross country title. "I just tried to stay with the North Broward girl and beat her at the end. This means I can accomplish anything."
The runner to which Rogers referred is North Broward (Fla.) star Laurel Brennan, one of the Florida's top cross country runners and the only girl who kept with Rogers over much of the 3.1-mile course. And even Brennan couldn't keep up with the American Heritage school sixth-grader's final kick, when the 11-year-old pushed into an extra gear for the final mile to finish the race in 19:38, a full 22 seconds in front of Brennan and 43 seconds in front of the rest of the field.
Rogers has run blistering times before, part of the hype that has lifted her name to recognition from CBS and the USATF, among others. In July 2009, Rogers set a 1,500-meter record for Bantam Girls with a time of 4:50.97, breaking a 15-year-old national record. She followed that up by breaking the 400-meter mark.
That record-breaking afternoon was Rogers' first brush with elevating her performance at a big meet, and she lived up to the challenge impressively. Not only did Rogers break the 1,500-meter mark, she beat her own personal best in the distance by nearly three seconds, a massive improvement in the world of competitive track and field.
All of that has brought plenty of expectations, but given the massive age difference, it was hard to consider Rogers a serious contender against runners six and seven years her senior in a first season of high school competition. Suddenly, all those limitations have been thrown out the window after a signature victory very early in the career of a very young speedster.
There's no telling whether Rogers will be able to keep up her early success at season-ending district, region and state championship meets. However, it does seem certain that no one will discount Rogers' chances of winning any race she enters from here out.