FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield Prep senior Connor Rog established himself as the state's top distance runner last year. But has his success diminished his drive for his final season as a scholastic competitor?
"I have a lot of motivation,'' Rog said. "I want to do a lot better than I did last year. The fact that I didn't win the State Open is big motivation."
Rog finished second in the State Open last year, finishing 1 second behind Bryan Fowler of Tolland. Rog beat Fowler a few weeks later in the New England championships, where he finished third. Rog was named the Gatorade cross country Runner of the Year in Connecticut. And he won the indoor 3,200 in the State Open and the Class LL 3,200 title during the outdoor season. Cross country, however, is his favorite sport, and this fall's State Open has drawn his focus.
"Last year's race was the one I thought about all summer in training,'' Rog said. "That's what got me through on those tough days. It was a good race, and I just got caught at the end. I was upset about it, but I didn't let it affect me."
Fowler and many other runners who pushed Rog last year have graduated, so the Prep senior figures to draw the attention of every runner who covets the state title. "I'm facing a lot of good competition,'' Rog said. "Just going to the starting line against some those runners is an honor."
Rog has been on the running fast track since he took up the sport in the fourth grade. He set state records in several Junior Olympic events, some of which still stand. He played soccer and baseball as a youngster before turning to running full time. "In fourth grade, I ran the school required mile, and I was faster than all the fifth-graders,'' Rog said. "It just came naturally."
Soccer helped his endurance. "I used to play midfield,'' he said. "I'd run up and down the soccer field." He learned discipline by playing baseball for a Fairfield team coached by Ron Nagy. "That's when I learned to listen,'' Rog said. "Everything he said, you had to respond by saying 'Yes, coach.' That's where I learned you never doubt your coaches."
Even before Rog stepped on a starting line this fall, he earned another honor: He was named Fairfield's Sports Person of the Year by the Fairfield County Sports Commission. He will be honored along with representatives from 14 other Fairfield County communities at the Sports Night awards dinner Oct. 17 at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich. "I had no idea about it,'' Rog said. "It's a big deal, and I'm honored to have been selected. Looking at the names, it really surprises me that I'm one of them."
Rog's road includes his college selection process, where many of the nation's elite running schools will seek his signature. The final high school journey begins in a few days. "I'm a big distance guy, I think of myself as essentially a distance runner. Cross country is definitely my favorite. I can't wait to get it started."
Contact Tom Renner at email@example.com.