Feb. 22, 2013
This story appeared in Friday's edition of K-State Sports Extra
By Mark Janssen
Quick question: Name the most talented athlete on the K-State campus from San Juan, Puerto Rico, named Rodriguez.
“Angel,” I’m guessing you guessed? A good guess, but arguably the wrong guess.
Have you ever heard of Carlos Rodriguez?
“I grew up knowing Angel and we played basketball on the same high school team,” said Carlos, who is no relation to Angel. “He was good and I was not so good; he wasn’t tall, but he was way taller than me.”
Carlos Rodriguez is K-State’s 5-foot-6 – he says, “I’m 5-7” – 147-pound sprinter on the Wildcat track team heading to the Big 12 Indoor Championships in Ames, Iowa. Action begins Saturday after the start of the meet was pushed back a day due to travel problems for some teams created by Winter Storm Q.
On campus for just 13 months, Rodriguez has become someone who coach Cliff Rovelto calls Kansas State’s all-time greatest all-around sprinter with times of 6.69 in the 60-meters, 21.01 in the 200 (on a flat track) and a 46.8-second leg on the Wildcats 4x400 relay team.
“We’ve never had anyone run faster in the 200 and only Terence (Newman, 6.2) has run faster in the 60, and going under 47 (in the 400) is really fast,” said Rovelto. “When you include the 100 (or 60), 200 and 400, it’s safe to say he’s already proven to be the best all-purpose sprinter that we’ve ever had.”
This weekend Rodriguez will enter the Big 12 Championship ranked second in the 200, third in the 60 and on a 4x400 relay team capable of placing high for an overall K-State team that could contend for the league championship.
“When I first came here last January (2012) I didn’t know if I could make the team. My numbers just weren’t that good and I was scared,” said Rodriguez. “Coaches told me to trust them and be patient. I thought they were just saying things to make me feel good, but meet by meet I started to improve.
“I never expected to set a school record. I just thought I could score a few points in conference, but my thinking has changed,” laughed Rodriguez. “I think I can win conference and set more school records. Reaching every goal opens a different door. Now I want to go through the door to a bigger level. I want to talk about winning at the NCAA level.”
Rovelto certainly isn’t trying to dash those lofty goals.
“We saw him run at junior nationals so we knew he was a decent guy who could probably help us some, but we certainly didn’t know that he would have the range that he does,” said Rovelto. “He has the ability, has embraced the workouts, and isn’t a lazy kid.”
Rodriguez’s improvements since arriving at K-State 13 months ago have been nothing short of amazing.
He came to K-State because of a friendship with former K-State distance runner Beverly Ramos, another native of Puerto Rico, who convinced him that the Wildcat coaching staff could take him to new levels.
“I came not knowing any English,” said Rodriguez, who picked K-State over Iowa State and Oklahoma due to three or four Puerto Ricans already being on the team. “When I first came, I listened to people talk and just replied, ‘Yes,’ or ‘No’. I had no idea what they were saying.”
But after a first semester in K-State’s English Language program, Rodriguez is now working toward his major in social science with a GPA last semester of 3.6 while taking such courses as biology, kinesiology and psychology.
“It’s been hard. I’d be telling a lie if I said it’s been easy,” said the 21-year-old Rodriguez, who first attended the Universidad de Puerto Rico before transferring to K-State.
But it’s also been rewarding both on the track and off.
Growing up in Carolina, Rodriguez called his area of town, “Not the worst, but not the best. I was taught early that there’s a difference between walking around at 12 midnight and 12 noon. You were taught not to trust just everybody. I was taught to be careful.”
Now, like Angel Rodriguez before him, and Denis Clemente before him, Carlos Rodriguez returns to his home community known for what he has done at Kansas State.
“If you accomplish something here, people know about it and people talk about you back home,” said Rodriguez, who holds the junior national Puerto Rican record at 10.40 in the 100 meters and was a member of the Puerto Rican team that set a national record in the 4x400 relay. “I didn’t know Denis back home, but I heard what he was doing here and then we were in the same Pan Am competitions for Puerto Rico and we got to know each other.”
So, is Carlos Rodriguez known back home these days?
Flashing a smile, he said, “I would say so. When I ran a 6.69, that tied the national record for my country and people in Puerto Rico knew about it.”
But he wants more.
“No one in my country has ever run under 10 seconds (100 meters),” said Rodriguez, whose PR of 10.31 currently ranks third in Puerto Rican history. “The national record is 10.19, but I want to be the first in my country to go under 10 seconds. That’s not a big thing in the world, but in my country it would be a record. I would be making history.”
KANSAS STATE’S SPRINT RECORDS
60 Indoors: 1. Terence Newman, 6.62, 2002; 2. Martynas Jurgilas, 6.65, 2011; 3. Carlos Rodriguez, 6.69
200 Indoors: 1. Carlos Rodriguez, 21.01
100 Outdoors: 1. Terence Newman, 10.20, 2002; 2. Carlos Rodriguez, 10.31, 2012
200 Outdoors: 1. Mike Myer, 20.76, 2009; 2. Ray Hill, 20.76, 1989; 3. Carlos Rodriguez, 20.87
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