Maybe it’s a genes thing.
Brielyn Rogers is the daughter of a University of Michigan All-America runner; the sister of an All-America 1,600-relay runner at DeMatha; the cousin of a former No. 3 pick for the Detroit Lions and the cousin of a Cleveland Browns defensive lineman.
It may have been a natural athleticism, blessed by the DNA of a long line of athletes that boosted the rising senior to three Washington Catholic Athletic Conference triple jump titles in as many years at Bishop McNamara High School and to a victory in the heptathlon at the USA Track and Field Potomac Valley Association Junior Olympic Championship this summer.
“She just had it, you know?” McNamara coach Keith Chapman said.
It was a combination of things that led Rogers to Chapman. Former Eleanor Roosevelt High coach Desmond Dunham recognized her ability to pick up new events and recommended her to Chapman, who coached the Gideonites AAU track club and had a reputation for teaching new runners multiple facets of the sport. Beyond that, her father, Charles Rogers, was also tired of having to split between watching Brielyn at dance recitals and her older brother, Chad, at track meets.
“I told my wife after a recital, ‘Hey, she’s gotta get into track,’” Charles said. “She always reminds me she should be in dance but she loves track.”
So Rogers traded her tutu for some spandex and joined her brother on the track. But it took three years before she discovered the event that she would soon dominate.
During the summer of her eighth grade year, Chapman introduced Rogers to the triple jump, a quirky event with three different actions that typically takes some time to learn. Not for Rogers.
“She and a couple girls were running and I told her, ‘Hey, Brielyn, try this,’” Chapman said. “When she jumped she was going 32 feet.”
Her immediate aptitude for the triple jump may have been a genes thing. Her rapid improvement was not.
“The triple is something I love to do,” she said. “I practice very hard on the triple. If it’s my first phase [the hop] then I work on my first phase. If it’s my second phase [the step] I work on my second phase. If it’s my third phase [the actual jump] then I work on my third phase. If it’s my speed then I work on my speed.”
By the end of her freshman indoor season at McNamara she was jumping just shy of 35 feet. At the close of her rookie outdoor season she was splashing into the sand well past 37 feet, picking up her first WCAC title along the way, shocking herself, Charles, and even Chapman in the process.
“No I didn’t expect that at all,” she said. “When I took it I was very surprised but as a freshman I was so excited.”
Rogers had been jumping long before her eighth grade year, just not in an event that had a combination of three separate bounds. She had grown up with the high jump, clearing 5-foot-3 in her last season before high school, and she also dabbled in the long jump. Her personal record clearance in the high jump would have placed her at sixth in the state out of all high-schoolers this year.
“Not many people can do different events,” she said. “Not many people can do jumping events, field events, running events. To me, it really tells me that you’re really good at track.”
Anthony Bates saw the potential in Rogers long before Dunham or Chapman or even Charles. The Glenarden Track Club coach had watched over Brielyn when she was an elementary school summer camper at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex. He took note of her ability to clear the foam hurdles with ease, how she was typically the fastest in the races, and even her oddly natural ability to hurl a nerf javelin.
“She was still learning the sport. It was just a matter of finding her an event,” he said.
Maybe the best part of track for Rogers — and McNamara — is that she never settled with just one event. In every meet her name will be on the heat sheet for the maximum amount of events, and every meet she tends to finish in the top five in nearly all of them. She finished outside of the top five just two times all season in 27 combined races and jumps.
On May 19 at the WCAC Championships, Rogers’ finishes scored 37 points for the Mustangs, as she earned victories in the triple jump and high jump and tacked on two third-place finishes and a fourth in the 100-meter hurdles.
Her talents have garnered attention from coaches at from Auburn, Texas Christian, Kentucky, Texas Tech, and her father’s alma mater, Michigan, among “100-plus others,” according to her father.
Maybe it’s just a Brielyn thing.