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Friday, July 8, 2011

UNCP track coach Larry Rodgers retiring

UNCP track and field coach Larry Rodgers announced his retirement on June 28, completing a 30-year career that included 10 appearances at national championships, six conference titles and two district titles.

Larry RodgersRodgers, who will retire on July 1, was an All-American runner at UNCP and became head coach in 1981.

“Larry epitomized what Pembroke is all about in his professional and personal life,” said Athletic Director Dan Kenney. “We wish Larry the best and hope that we can find a way to tap into his talents as a new retiree. We will never be able to thank him enough for all that he has done for UNC Pembroke.”    

Rodgers’ final season was a good one. The men’s track and field team finished 38th at the NCAA Division II National Championships. He was named 2011 Southeast Region Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

During Rodgers’ tenure, UNCP athletes earned 32 All-American awards, including two by sprinter Maurice Eubanks in 2011. There were 99 athletes named All-Carolinas Conference, 48 All-District and 25 All-Region. Gary Henry won  two individual national championships in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs under Rodgers’ coaching.

Rodgers’ teams won first or second place in the Carolinas Conference and NAIA District 26 meets in seven seasons, including six straight league championships from 1982-87. The Braves finished in second place at district meets from 1982-85 before winning back-to-back district championships in 1986-87.

As both men’s and women’s cross country coach from 1981-2008, Rodgers’ teams won seven district titles and earned invitations to14 regional championships and three trips to the national championships. He had 38 All-District, 38 All-Conference, one All-Region and one All-American performers.

Rodgers was a 1972 All-American at UNCP and three-time all-district performer in track from 1968-73. He holds the school record in the 600-yard run (1:14.9) and a share of a sprint medley relay team record. He was a part of four NAIA District 29 championship teams under his mentor and UNCP Hall of Fame coach, Dr. Ed Crain.

Rodgers issued this statement on his retirement:

“First I would like to thank our administration, faculty, staff and community for the support, the letters and words of encouragement and help that you provided during my 30 years at UNCP.  I count it all as a joy and a blessing to have had the opportunity to work with all of you. I will always cherish the memories, the friendships and wonderful time spent here.

“Furthermore, to my coach and mentors, Dr. Ed Crain, Dr. Tommy Thompson, Dan Kenney, and all my former athletes and students, I send a special thanks to all of you. The awards and championships won and all the success stories that have been written about me or the track and field and cross country teams, I have enjoyed only because of the valuable contribution that you made to help make it all possible.

“To my coaching staff and colleagues, it has been a pleasure working with all of you. You are a special group of coaches that love what you do and have a genuine concern for helping young men and women become mature adults that will make a difference in life. Keep up the good work.

“Lastly, I will miss being at UNCP, but I feel that the time is right for me to say good bye. Thus, in doing so, I leave you with this thought from George Washington Carver,  'How far you go in your life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong, because someday in your life you will have been all of these.’”

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