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Rogers Successfully Organizes 15th Montgomery Invitational
By: Kevin Milsted

Get meet director Tom Rogers talking about the history of the Montgomery Invitational and be prepared to sit a while. He recalls with uncanny accuracy the standout races and leaps from meets past, such as the 2005 meet in which three future NCAA track champions, Nicole Leach, Latavia Thomas, and Francena McCorory battled it out on the surface of the PG Sports & Learning Complex fieldhouse. Rogers holds the Montgomery Invitational meet records near to his heart and could probably describe the setting of each record from the meet's fifteen year history. Even this year, while executing his meet director duties mid-meet, he was fully aware of the meet records set by Masai Russell, Shyheim Wright, and Hayley Jackson.

This was the 15th rendition of the Montgomery Invitational and every single meet has been put on by Rogers and Tom Martin. Martin is currently the head track and cross country coach at Walter Johnson High School while, in the last year, Rogers accepted the head athletic director position at WJ and stepped down from coaching track.

Wondering if the leadership of the meet was in flux, I asked Rogers if the meet organization would continue on as always, even if he was no longer a track coach.

"This meet is our baby," Rogers said, first and foremost. "We worked really hard to build this up. So far, I think it worked out ok with me this year. I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure how stressful and how much time my athletic director duties were going to take. But it's been pretty manageable because most of the bulk of the work that we do for the meet starts in the middle of December and goes to the middle of January. That is kind of a quiet stretch as far as your other sports go because of winter break."

So for now the workload for Rogers to put on the Montgomery Invitational seems manageable, although he said that he has been teasing others including his son Davy Rogers, the head track coach at Richard Montgomery, about picking up more responsibility and taking over the meet.

How did it all begin? The start of the Montgomery Invitational coincided with the opening of the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex and unknown to most, the Montgomery Invitational saved indoor track for Montgomery County Public Schools.

"I was the assistant AD at Walter Johnson... I went to the AD meeting and it was a meeting with the principals. The principals were talking about wanting to do away with indoor track because people had to travel so far and it was too expensive. The Sportsplex was getting ready to open and I said to Gabby von Nordheim, 'If you can get us a date at that new Sportsplex, Marty [Tom Martin] and I will put together a track meet and eventually we will be able to make enough money at that track meet that we can pay for the county to rent the facility for all the rest of our track meets for the whole season. So it won't cost so much and I won't have to hear principals complaining about how expensive it is for these buses to go to Pennsylvania and New York and New Jersey and Connecticut.'"

"The first year we broke even," Rogers continued. "The next year it got a little bigger and the next year it got a little bigger... and we now have about 2,000 athletes every year from 100 teams from five states and the meet is profitable enough that it helps pay for renting the facility for all of our other meets for Montgomery County."

Rogers thanks his lucky stars for the fact that the meet has never been canceled due to inclement weather or a Washington Redskins home game. The PG Sports and Learning Complex shares parking lots with Fed-Ex Field, the home of the Washington Redskins, and shuts down the sports complex for Redskins home games. Of course, most NFL games are on Sundays so it usually is not an issue with Saturday activities at PGSLC, but the scare was very real this year. The Redskins secured a division title and the right to host a home playoff game on either January 9 or 10. It was only revealed late on January 3 that the football game would be played on January 10 instead of Saturday, January 9. The 2016 Montgomery Invitational would go on uninterrupted.

"I'm just grateful the NFL listened to my appeal to play the Redskins game on Sunday," said Rogers jokingly. The decision was most likely the result of negotiations among television networks and had little to do with our beloved Montgomery Invitational.


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