Two of the leaders of the girl’s Argyle cross country team are also two of the youngest runners in the program—and they just so happen to be best friends.
Lanie Rodgers and Rhyle McKinney are both freshman at Argyle High School this school year and have already made their marks in the sport of distance running.
Coach Kathi Olson said that Rodgers and McKinney have been impressive additions to the cross country team. The coach said that more than anything else, they bring excitement and leadership to the Lady Eagles program.
“They are both great runners and, being freshmen that are new to the program, have really been great for the team,” Olson said. “The upperclassmen have really embraced them. We are a family and those two have become part of the family.”
Olson said that under most circumstances, coaches would be a little concerned about freshman being among their top runners. But, she added that Rodgers and McKinney have handled the pressure very well.
“I think there is a learning curve for every sport and every young athlete,” Olson said. “These two have adapted very well to the roles they have on the team. Sometimes the inexperience of a first year or freshman runner can help, since there is no previous platform on how things will be at the big meets.
“I have no worries about how they will perform. Both have been on big stages before in other activities that will help in the big meets we have coming up this season.”
At the Ken Gaston XC Invitational on Sept. 29, the Argyle girls finished third as a team in the 1A-4A division with McKinney (11:57.10) and Rodgers (12:19.80) finishing third and seventh overall respectively.
At the Metroplex Challenge Invitational a week earlier, Rodgers (13:19.86) and McKinney (13:44.91) finished second and fourth respectively in the 3,200-meter event for the Lady Eagles.
Rodgers said that running at the varsity level for Argyle has been an adjustment, but added that she has learned and grown a lot this season.
“It’s harder than I expected it to be; Coach Olsen has really pushed me this season to do my very best,” Rodgers said. “I’ve learned that’s it not only physically taxing, but there’s also a mental element to it. And I’ve really enjoyed the team aspect of it.”
Rodgers, who is also involved in theater, plays basketball and runs track in spring at Argyle, said it is a little “intimidating” being a freshman and enjoying the kind of success she has had so far, but said that the fact that she and McKinney are best friends certainly does help.
“I love it,” Rodgers said. “It really makes running fun when you get to do it with your best friend. We just enjoy competing with each other and it really doesn’t matter to either of us who wins.”
McKinney echoed Rodgers’ sentiments, adding that one of the best parts about it is how each of them makes the other one better.
“It is great being able to run alongside my best friend,” McKinney said. “She pushes me mentally and physically every day to compete at the highest level possible.”
McKinney, who also plays basketball, softball and runs track for Argyle, said that she and Rodgers also both have the same objectives for the season, which allows both of them to focus their efforts on continuing to improve.
“Our goal since we had started running together has been to make it to state,” McKinney said. “But our short term goal is that we’d like to try and place first and second at district and for our team to make it to regionals.”
The Argyle boys cross country team won state championships in 2007 and 2009; and, while it is too early to predict a state title for the Argyle girls just yet, Olson said it is quite a luxury knowing she will have Rodgers and McKinney for the next four years.
“They are awesome,” Olson said. “They are such great people, along with being great athletes. I have really enjoyed getting to know them so far this season. I have known Lanie since she was a little toddler– being my Athletic Director’s (Todd Rodgers) youngest daughter– and now getting to know her as a member of the Cross Country program has been really fun.
“To see Lanie’s continuing development this season and to get to be a part of what she will accomplish in the future is really exciting.”
Olson added that Rhyle’s brother, Shane, was in her class a few years ago, so the coach has known about her running accomplishments.
“She has been on the radar the last few years,” said Olson. “There has been high anticipation knowing I was getting her in the program this year. It’s been great.”