BOGACZYK: Rogner Finds Success Running in Several Ways
The Word on the Herd-April 15, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- It seems Isabelle Rogner isn't soaring skyward anymore -- at least literally -- so she's on this running kick.
Running for Marshall cross country ... Running the 1,500 and 5,000 meters for the Herd track and field team ... Running for vice president of the Student Government Association?
"Yeah," Marshall assistant track and field coach Don Yentes said, "one day, Izzy Rogner will be elected governor of West Virginia."
Rogner, of Lewisburg, came to Marshall as a pole vaulter from Greenbrier East High School. She had a 10-foot effort as a high school senior. Coach Jeff Small's Herd, however, had no track and field facility in those pre-Chris Cline Athletic Complex days, and therefore no pole vault athletes.
So, Rogner -- known as "Izzy" to friends and teammates -- fell into love with distance running. Politics? The Atlanta-born Marshall junior already was into that.
"Back in high school, I was in student government and then I was elected student body president in my senior year (2011-12)," Rogner said. "I was able to do a lot ... It got me involved, so then when I came here the next year, I was a senator for the College of Business.
"Then, being a freshman and with a lot going on with track so I backed off a little bit. I became friends with 2014-15 SGA President) Duncan Waugaman. We'd talk a lot about SGA when we'd see each other, and I was able to open my schedule more and it just went from there."
The SGA vice president this school year, Lila Magnus, is an MU senior. Waugaman, from Huntington and a Spring Valley High graduate, wanted to run for 2015-16 as an incumbent. He needed a running mate.
Waugaman chose Rogner, who is majoring in international business with minors in marketing and political science.
The duo appealed to student-athletes to get out and vote last month, and it paid off. Of the 1,733 votes cast -- believed to be the largest ballot-box participation in school history -- the Waugaman-Rogner ticket received 945 (54.5 percent) -- an almost a 35-percent landslide in a three-team race.
The 2015-16 inauguration is scheduled April 26. And when Rogner takes over, she will become only the third known student-athlete to hold one of the top two spots in the SGA. The two previous office-holders were football players.
In 1999-2000, safety Rogers Beckett was also the SGA vice president. And for two school years (1978-79 and '79-80), place-kicker Ed Hamrick -- the older brother of current Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick -- was the SGA president.
So, what does Rogner view as her connection between athletics and student government?
"I've kind of always tried to take on a leadership role with my sports," said Rogner, who also was honored last week with a C-USA Commissioner's Medal (3.75 cumulative grade point average). "It (2014) was my first year with cross country, and I would say that the girls see me as one of the leaders on the team. I definitely want to make an impact.
"At Greenbrier East, we didn't have the best sports program in the state, but it doesn't mean you can't try. You can look at it like, `I don't think I'm good enough.' Or you can look at it, `Uh, I think I can take this.' So, I think that's how I felt with student government."
Rogner didn't just bring student-athlete voting power to the election process. She and Waugaman have an aggressive platform that the Herd distance runner said ties into her experiences and Marshall sports in general.
"We have a big platform," Rogner said. "My understanding is it usually takes a day or so to put it together. We had a platform done in 15 minutes when I met with Duncan at Starbucks. It came together just like that.
"For cross country, we run all the time. And when I'm running through Huntington with the girls, I really see the disconnect between the community and the campus. There are all of those cute little shops and restaurants downtown, and then their upstairs, there's just nothing ... empty. And so I see so much potential for the university.
"I kind of look at Athens, Ohio, as kind of the inspiration for that, where you see more connect between the community and the (Ohio University) campus. I think something like that is completely doable. So, my big platform I'm pushing for -- and I'm actually staying here this summer to try to implement it in time for next fall, or the coming year -- is to get a transportation system with the TTA (Tri-State Transit Authority) service.
"It would come out of students' tuition, but it would be a way kids could get all the way from Pullman (Square) to the Rec Center. It could benefit students on and off campus, and I also think it's a big safety thing. We're always having to find a (designated driver) or walk home, and it's no surprise the streets of Huntington aren't always that safe at night. So, that's a big thing."
Rogner will serve as VP during her senior year academically, but after redshirting while transition to running as a freshman, she redshirted. So, in 2015-16 she will be a junior as a Herd runner.
"I pole vaulted here maybe once or twice, and then Coach Small came up to me and said, `You have pretty good cross country times, and why haven't we ever tried you at long distance?'
"So, I started running with the cross country girls last spring and I just fell in love with it, had a really successful cross country season for my first one. I was able to break 20 (minutes) in one of our races and made it to the conference championships.
"We have the pole vault now with the new indoor facility, but I'm not going back to it. I'm staying with cross country because I love it ... Cross country is kind of my main focus; that's what Coach Small has me focusing on right now, so I'm doing track pretty much to stay in shape. I want to come back and be one of our top runners for the cross country program and rank in the top eight as a team in conference."
At Greenbrier East, Rogner competed in track and field, volleyball, soccer and basketball, where her coach was Marshall alumnus and Vision Campaign major benefactor Jim Justice, the owner and CEO of The Greenbrier resort.
Even in her decision to attend Marshall, Rogner's drive played a role. Why would a pole vaulter come to a track program that didn't compete in the discipline?
"I raced in track in high school, too, I raced, but it wasn't anything I was serious about," the incoming SGA vice president said. "I ran because I was one of the better athletes on the team. With the pole vault, I felt a connect here because in high school, we didn't have a pole vaulting pit either when I first got there.
"I was the first pole vaulter at Greenbrier East. And we actually started vaulting on hills. My first State Meet, the regionals we went to was one of my practices, and I got over the bar, somehow, at 8 feet. I kind of had a knack for it, I guess. I was a late bloomer. I thought, well, it would be nothing new if I came to Marshall and they don't have the facility yet. At least I'll have the coaching.
"I had offers to the University of Charleston, but when I talked to Coach Small and (former assistant coach) Willie Johnson talked about what they could do for me, I just knew.
"It was, `Go big, or go home.' I wanted to try Division I, and Marshall just kind of felt like home."
Small said Rogner brings more than leadership to a young Herd team.
"She's multi-faceted, a really good kid, good work ethic," the 20-year Herd cross country and track and field coach said. "She came in here as a pole vaulter morphed into a cross country runner and the fact she's willing to try something different says a lot about her. You can't have enough of those type kids.
"The fact she always has a smile on her face tells you something. No matter how hard the workout is, or how cold the weather is, all the hills she has to climb ... She just goes out and does it."