Skill, dedication and drive led Jenna Rogers to two Big Ten high jump championships this year.
But how the Nebraska freshman began to accelerate in the sport may have been kickstarted by a little luck.
Rogers was 11 when she was competing as a high jumper for a recreational club in her hometown of Rutherford, New Jersey. She had a mentor, Luke Russell from Australia, that knew a thing or two about the event.
“It’s weird,” Rogers said laughing. “I had an Olympic high jumper coach for recreation track and field. He happened to move into the town and volunteered. One of the best coaches and I had no idea.
“That was kind of a luck-type scenario for sure.”
And with the help of Mom (We’ll get to that later) Rogers was on her way, winning a national high school title in 2017.
After her first season with Nebraska was derailed by a foot injury — she competed in just one meet — Rogers bounced back to win a Big Ten indoor championship in February. She made it an indoor-outdoor sweep after clearing 5 feet, 11½ inches at the Big Ten outdoor championships two weeks ago in Minneapolis. Rogers will compete Saturday at the NCAA Division I West regional meet in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She is ranked fifth in the region.
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Rogers became the first Husker woman to sweep the conference high jump titles since Na’Tassia Vice in 2004 when NU was in the Big 12.
“I found a lot of success in indoor, I think more than I ever imagined, but that set me up to be super-confident coming into outdoor,” Rogers said. “I knew I was All-American, I knew I was Big Ten champ and I felt like I had to back that up for outdoor, but I came in confident because I knew I could be up there with some of the best in the country.”
Now Rogers is among the best, and that includes in the Husker all-time charts. Her jump of 6-1¼ at the John McDonnell Invitational earlier this spring ranks fourth all-time.
And though Rogers didn’t reach 6 feet at Big Tens, she remains positive about her progress (remind you, she’s just a freshman).
“These are the two best seasons that I’ve ever had in my life,” she said referring to indoor and outdoor. “Obviously in the past week or so I haven’t reached the 6-foot mark, but 5-11 is pretty close. On average, I’m jumping really well and I can’t complain about that at all.”
Rogers said it was easy to get discouraged after an injury like last year’s. Will she be the old Jenna again, she wondered?
But she dedicated herself during rehab and went back home to New Jersey over the summer to catch up on training and lift weights. Once back at Nebraska, high jump coach Dusty Jonas helped Rogers make up lost ground.
“Having him there to walk me through my injury, to tell me what to do, what to fix, have the perfect training plan going into each meet gives me confidence alone, and obviously prepares me to jump well,” Rogers said.
Rogers also is part of the No. 2 high jumping team in the country, so that also provides a push. Sophomore Riley Masten and senior Madison Yerigan tied for fifth at Big Tens, and freshman Brooklyn Miller was seventh.
Now a year after sitting on the …….