This is Jenna Rogers
by Jennifer Ersalesi
Jenna Rogers is a young woman who is truly defying gravity. She has broken school, county and national records in Track and Field for her amazing high jump. The Athletic Director of Rutherford High School, David Frazier, was excited to tell us about Jenna, “Jenna is a captain, a leader, and a great overall kid! It is impossible not to root for her! It seems like an everyday event watching her succeed, but it doesn't happen this easy for most student-athletes. Time will likely show that she is one of the best athletes to ever come through our building and I am glad I got to watch her in her various sports!" This is Rutherford had the opportunity to speak with Jenna regarding her amazing success so far and her goals for the future.
TIR: Although you are currently a junior at Rutherford High school, you started doing Track and Field and ultimately the high jump track event with Rutherford Recreation when you were 11 years old. What made you decide to try this particular sport?
JR: There was a qualifying meet one day, but it was raining so the athletes could automatically qualify for certain field events. My coach suggested the high jump. At first I thought she was absolutely crazy, but I signed up for it anyway. I practiced on my couch and that year I went to the regional meet.
TIR: Tell us more about practicing the high jump on your couch.
JR: My coach said to just flop backwards on the couch and it would be just like I was practicing in a real high jump pit. So I did and I guess it did help (laughs), because I had qualified for the regional meet that year.
TIR: One of your coaches, Curtis Arsi, told TIR, “Jenna exemplifies many unique qualities that are essential to be an elite athlete. Her work ethic, leadership, determination, and enthusiasm are just several of the many characteristics that make her not only an elite athlete, but a team leader and a great person as well.” Track and Field has become a big part of your life. What do you enjoy most about it?
JR: I enjoy having personal records that I can set out to beat every time I compete. It is very similar to lifting where you have personal records in the weight room. Track is a high school sport that is based on the same basic principle as weight lifting. Track is all about competing not only with other athletes, but also against yourself. I love that I can compete against my greatest competition (myself and my own personal record). As crazy as this sounds I enjoy the ups and downs of this sport, specifically the harder times, which help me determine how to strengthen my skills. High jump is one of the most technical events in Track and Field and with that comes so much space for improvement and I absolutely love that. Plus, it is very satisfying to clear a high height and see the bar still up.
TIR: In June 2017, you cleared 6 ft and 3/4 inches to become the New Balance Outdoor National Champion at the New Balance Nationals, which made you number 1 in the Girls High School High Jump in the country. You also hold the Bergen County High Jump Record. How does it feel to have achieved so much at such a young age?
JR: Looking back at it now that was the most insane thing I have ever accomplished. I am so incredibly blessed to experience winning a national championship especially as a freshman. These accomplishments allow me to understand that I am capable of crazy achievements like that. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about the incredible feeling of winning nationals and that feeling pushes me to succeed everyday.
TIR: Although we have been focusing on your success in Track and Field, you have also played volleyball at RHS for the last three years and have done extremely well. During winter volleyball this year, you reached a new career high, 428 kills, and you led the team with 32 aces and 80 blocks at the net. To what do you attribute these accomplishments?
JR: My mom has truly helped me accomplish so much in volleyball. She has done everything possible to make sure I get the best training so that I can be successful. She also coaches me from the bleachers and gives me tips that make me look way better than I actually am. I also had my older sister to look up to while I was in middle school. My sister was a monster of a volleyball player and I watched her games thinking I wanted to be half the volleyball player that she was. She truly is one of the greatest athletes I've ever watched and I'm not just saying that because she is my sister. She is definitely my role model and I learned so much by watching her.
TIR: What do you enjoy most about playing volleyball?
JR: My teammates never fail to put a smile on my face during practice and games. I also love it because my second mom is my coach. Coach Antzoulides treats the athletes like her daughters and she deserves all the credit for the RHS volleyball program's success.
TIR: In October 2018, you were named Athlete of the Week. What was it like to receive that recognition?
JR: I never pictured myself getting AOTW for volleyball, so receiving that honor was incredible, especially in a county filled with such talented female athletes.
TIR: “In my thirty plus years of coaching and teaching, I have never had the pleasure to teach and coach such a well-rounded person. Jenna has a special energy and passion for everything that she does. She is a phenomenal athlete who is the hardest worker on the gym floor on a daily basis. She is humble, articulate, selfless and I consider myself lucky to be her coach,” explained your volleyball coach, Helen Antzoulides. As a young athlete, do you feel you have reached the goals you have set for yourself or is there more you wish to accomplish?
JR: I feel that I haven't reached or exceeded my goals in track and field. I am a big dreamer and I know that I am capable of even greater achievements. I am so excited about what the future holds for me in this sport and I know there is so much more that I can accomplish.
TIR: How do you balance being a student and an athlete?
JR: Sometimes it can be a lot, but when it becomes stressful I like to think about how all this hard work will pay off in the future. I know that if I work hard now, my future goals will be a lot easier to accomplish.. I like to take a moment when things do get overwhelming to think about that.
TIR: What do you enjoy about being a student at RHS?
JR: The best thing about RHS is the student body and how involved everyone gets in supporting RHS teams. The football games are so fun because of the dog pound. RHS has a lot of school spirit and that is what makes being a student here so fun.
TIR: Athleticism seems to run in your family. Your parents were both athletes and your older sister Jessica plays basketball at the University of Rhode Island. Genetics might play a role in your success, but what else have you learned from your parents that has helped you succeed as an athlete?
JR: Lady Gaga once said “There can be 100 people in a room and 99 people won’t believe in you, and you just need one to believe in you.” My mom is that one person who believes in me. From the first day I started Track she believed in me more than I believed in myself. Many people thought my whole career as a high jumper was a joke, but never my mom. Without my mom I would absolutely not be where I am today. I have to give all the credit for my success to my mother. My dad is my toughest critic, but the person that has taught me to be the most humble. I could break the national record and my dad would say that I need to work harder. This is the best thing that he could have done. Every time he told me to work harder, I would want to work harder. I wanted to do that extra rep in the weight room and I’d want to impress my dad and man did that work.
TIR: Your siblings have also inspired you and helped you succeed? What have you learned from them?
JR: Again, my sister is and forever will be my role model. She gives the best advice because she was once in the position that I am. In every sense of the phrase, I want to be half the person that my sister has become. My brother, Patrick, has this annoying little phrase that he says when I refuse to do anything with him, such as basketball. If he asks me and I say no, he will immediately respond with “why not”. It’s not just any “why not”, it’s a quick irritating phrase and from this I learned a huge lesson that he doesn’t even know he taught me. Asking yourself “why not” can completely change your mindset. Why not run the extra mile, why not go out on days that it is raining, and why not jump six feet. Patrick's annoying phrase has helped me develop into the athlete I am.