By Christopher Hunt
NEW YORK – Michael Rodgers walked to the microphone behind a podium in the backroom of Coogan’s Restaurant in Washington Heights and calmly announced that he had something to prove this season. He plans to start making his point at the Millrose Games Jan. 29 at Madison Square Garden.
“I have a big standard set for this meet,” Rodgers said during the Track and Field Writer’s luncheon Tuesday. “Hopefully I can do something that’s going to get everyone’s attention.”
Rodgers caught everyone’s attention when he edged Terrance Trammell to win the 60 meters last year at the Millrose Games. But Rodgers claims to be a much different runner than the one that burst onto the scene indoors last year by winning the 2008 US 60-meter title and clocking a wind-aided 9.91 to win the USA Outdoor 100-meter championship.
The 24-year old sprinter began to fade at the end of the season, which resulted in a semifinal exit at the World Championships in Berlin. So Rodgers did something he’d never done before. He hit the weight room.
Since August, Rodgers has been working with strength coach Bruce Johnson, who also works with Sanya Richards.
“I feel the difference,” Rodgers said. “I feel more powerful, more explosive. At first I didn’t like it. I felt heavy. Then I just started feeling better. Everything felt so easy. Practice became easy. “
Rodgers never saw the weight room at Oklahoma Baptist University where he won two NAIA 60-meter titles. In fact, he said he didn’t even always make it to practice at all. He became one of the feel-good stories of 2009 when his high school coach, Darryl Woodson, picked him off a hot dog stand and convinced him that he should consider working with him after Rodgers had considered giving up the sport. By the end of the year, many considered him to be one of the future stars of American sprinting.
“I feel like I got a point to prove,” Rodgers said.
Defending Millrose pole vault is champ, Jenn Stucynizki, now Jenn Suhr after she married her coach Rick Suhr on Jan. 3.
Jenn Suhr, a state pentathlon champ at Fredonia and all-American at Robert Wesleyan in Rochester, will make her season debut at the Games. It’s also her first competition since the US Outdoor Championships, she was forced to sit out the World Championships in Berlin because of an Achilles injury.
“I think I’m a little behind with the wedding and the honeymoon,” she said. “I’m not worried. This year I’m looking for that crowd more than ever. “
Trey Hardee will race the 60 hurdles. He said he entered the just hours before Terrence Trammell and Ryan Braithwaite gave commitments.
“Here’s to coming in third,” he said.