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Track standout Christian Rodriguez of Dorsey finds hope in a time of coronavirus

Christian Rodriguez of Dorsey won the City Section 800-meter title in 20`19 as a junior in his only high school season.
Christian Rodriguez of Dorsey won the City Section 800-meter championship in 20`19 as a junior in his only season competing in high school track.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

To say that Dorsey High graduate Christian Rodriguez feels fortunate would be an understatement.

His senior track and field season was lost when school closed on March 16 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He had no laptop for remote learning and was doing schoolwork on his phone while living at his South Los Angeles home with his father, brother, grandmother and uncle. Then he got a laptop, but the camera never worked.

He was the defending champion for the City Section at 800 meters and tried to stay in shape by running in all-comers meets and training with friends. His plan for the future was uncertain. Track scholarships are hard to earn, and the 2020 season in college didn’t happen, meaning seniors would be returning in 2021, reducing scholarship options.

“Going away from home was never an option,” he believed, noting that his best options locally were Long Beach State and Cal State L.A.

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San Jose State recruiters decided to take a chance on Rodriguez in May. He said they remembered his 1:53.798 clocking at the 2019 state championships in the prelims. Rodriguez also showed them video of himself working out during the spring.

“They felt I would have done big things this year,” he said. “I’m really blessed.”

Last month, he signed a letter of intent with San Jose State. Most of his college expenses will be taken care of with the help of financial aid.

Incredibly, Rodriguez competed in only one season of high school track and field. He worked out with a club program as a freshman and sophomore, joined Dorsey as a junior and lost out on his senior year. His 3.8 grade-point average combined with his track potential gave San Jose State the confidence to take a chance on him.

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Steve Lang, who helped coach Rodriguez at Dorsey, said he now must take advantage. “He’s a good worker,” he said. “He has talent. We have only so many years to display talent given. It’s here today and gone tomorrow.”

These months of uncertainty have taught Rodriguez a lesson he intends to embrace.

“I feel like, never wait for next time,” he said. “If you want to do something, do it now. Everything from now on, I have to put my 100% into. Don’t slack off.”

He’s leaving for San Jose State on Aug. 14 to begin a college adventure he never envisioned.


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