Drew Rogers

 Herscher’s Drew Rogers assumes the lead at the start of the IHSA Class 1A Bishop McNamara Cross Country Regional at Legacy Park in Manteno last season. Rogers was named the 2020-21 Illinois Gatorade Runner of the Year. READ MORE

During the past three years, Herscher runner Drew Rogers has earned plenty of medals, trophies and congratulatory honors for his dominance on the course. But none compares to the latest hardware he’s added to his trophy case.

Rogers was named the 2020-21 Illinois Gatorade Runner of the Year, an award given to the top athlete for each respective sport in the state, regardless of class.

“For me, the Gatorade award is one of my favorite accomplishments, right up there with winning state,” said Rogers, the 2019 IHSA Class 1A individual state champion. “I’m very thankful that I was picked over all of the other great runners in the state that very well could have [gotten] this award as well.”

Rogers found out he won the award when he received a text from his coach, Rob Grosso. Grosso said he’s delivered quite a bit of congratulatory news to his star runner in the past few years but nothing on this magnitude.

“He’s been the No. 1 ranked runner and been on some other lists like that, but the weight of this award is just huge ...” Grosso said. “For a kid to be so humble and engaging with his teammates, even the junior high kids, it’s just awesome.”

It’s those very same teammates Rogers even said deserve a heavy helping of credit for his own award.

“I believe that a big part of this is theirs,” Rogers said. “We all keep each other motivated throughout the year, and everyone is so supportive of each other.

“For the training aspect, just having your team there is a big thing to stay on the right track and not get distracted from the workout.”

For Grosso, those workouts come so often it’s sometimes hard to believe as a coach.

“You just want to pinch yourself; when your top guy is so invested in the sport and making sure he’s at his best, it’s so contagious,” Grosso said. “You gauge your team’s commitment by how much they do on their own, and to see someone like Drew do what he does, we’ll tell stories about his workouts for decades.”

Rogers said he runs 50 to 55 miles per week, but that number will increase later in the track season as he transitions from speed-based track to endurance-based cross country.

The next cross country season will be Rogers’ last as a senior, a moment Grosso said he knows is approaching at a pace as rapid as Rogers sets on the track.

“I know this year is [going to] go by quicker than I can even picture,” Grosso said. “You always try [to] make the best of it for the kids [who] give you the time, but with someone like this and seeing the legacy he’s starting to leave, there are days you get sad because [he] and his group are way closer to finishing [high school] than starting.

“It’s gonna be fun to cheer him on wherever he goes.”

Mason Schweizer is an award-winning reporter who has been with the Daily Journal since 2017 and sports editor since 2019. Save for time at the University of Illinois and Wayne State College, Mason is a lifelong area resident.