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Finding runners key to rebuilding RC cross country

Wednesday, October 15, 2008  
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By Andy Colbert

Posted Oct 15, 2008 @ 01:13 AM


When Rockford College hired Roger Fredrickson to handle the “rebirth” of the cross country program in 2004, the Regents got one of the best in the business.

Starting at Belvidere in 1974 and finishing at Winnebago, Fredrickson is one of the most-respected prep coaches in the Midwest. He ranks second in IHSA history to Elmhurst York’s Joe Newton for most state championships won with eight.

With a top-flight coach in place, Rockford College could develop into a Division III national power. However, that can’t happen without a component that Fredrickson calls his biggest challenge and least favorite chore.

“Recruiting is a never-ending battle — doing cold calls, massive mailings, trying to be a salesman,” said Fredrickson, after a team workout and picnic on homecoming. “It’s brutal.”

What hampers Fredrickson even more is that as a member of NCAA D-III, Rockford does not offer athletic scholarships. Coaching is the easy part. Finding runners to coach is the hard part.

“Coach has the possibility of creating a national power,” said No. 1 runner Tony Hardin. “The key is to recruit. You need runners with passion and a love for the sport.”

Hardin, a senior, hails from the St. Louis area and proved to be an easy sell for Fredrickson.

“I was looking at a lot of different colleges and came here for a visit,” Hardin said. “I met guys like Chad Zeman and formed friendships. And I was impressed by coach Fredrickson.”

As a freshman, Hardin joined Zeman as the only other experienced runner on the team.

“It’s a lot different than high school coaching,“ Fredrickson said. “Some have never run before and others are veterans.”

Zeman, who holds most of Marengo’s cross country records, graduated, but Fredrickson was able to pick up junior college transfer Seth Lagerhausen of Arizona to replace him.

“I wanted to go away from Arizona and looked online for a special education program,” Lagerhausen said. “I hadn’t heard of Rockford College before. It fell in my lap.”

Hardin (26:34 for 8K) and Lagerhausen (26:49) lead the Regents as they prepare for conference and regional tests in November. Rockford, with its nine-man roster, will be chasing Milwaukee School of Engineering for the NAC league title.

“They have 30-40 runners out, but I’m hoping we can win it,” Lagerhausen said.

“As long as we continue with coach’s philosophy of honor and tradition, we’ll continue to be one of the top schools in the conference,” Hardin said. “Hopefully, we’ll grow to be feared and respected. Some of the young guys are stepping up.”

The Rockford College women, with five runners out including Audra Carlson of Winnebago, will also compete Nov. 1 at the conference meet at Concordia College in Wisconsin.

“It’s been different coming from a place like Winnebago to a program that wasn’t in place,” said Carlson, who had Fredrickson for a coach her sophomore year at ’Bago. “Our goal is to finish strong and build for the future.”


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