PALATINE, Ill. – Sophomores Max Anderson (/Cary-Grove) and Tom Rohn (Cary-Grove/Cary), both Cary-Grove High School grads, were key pieces of the Harper College men's track and field team for the past two years.
Anderson and Rohn both qualified for nationals this year in several events for head coach Renee Zellner. Although the pair scored big points at the national meets the last two years (two of which were relay events), they also improved their individual times during their tenure at Harper College.
Because of these exceptional accomplishments the last two years, Anderson and Rohn can be recognized as the first-ever Harper College Co-Athletes of the Week.
The two go back to their days on the track at Cary-Grove, where they competed in relays together and experienced a great deal of success. Their 4x400m team placed tenth in state in 2013.
"Tom is definitely my ally. We've been together for years," Anderson said. "There's nobody I trust more with the baton or in a big-time race in general."
Rohn choose Harper after high school to continue his track and field career, and Anderson settled on St. Norbert College. Anderson left St. Norbert and transferred to Harper, and Rohn and his high school coach, Dale Ankele, who would be the assistant track and field coach at Harper for his freshman year, talked him into coming out for the Hawks' track and field team.
Rohn's first year was hampered by a hip flexor injury, making it hard to train and be at the level he wanted to. However, Anderson's decision to come to Harper paid off, as he joined up with Troy Cunningham (Elk Grove, Ill./Conant), Jhoan Lino (León, Guanajuato/Streamwood) and Andre Barnes (Mount Prospect, Ill./Prospect) to capture a national title in the 4x800m relay. The Hawks also captured second place in the nation as a team.
Reflecting on his freshman year, Rohn knew he needed to make every training workout count in preparation for 2014.
"You see how hard the D1 and NCAA teams train, and they are usually a few months ahead of us," Rohn said. "They are cooking on the indoor track, so you have to train hard."
In 2014, Rohn was able to train more and felt stronger throughout the season, improving his times each meet. It showed in the national meet, where he took fifth place in a very competitive field in the 400m and was a part of 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams that took sixth and seventh place, respectively. Including prelims and semifinals, Rohn competed in eight events at nationals.
Anderson took on seven events (including prelims and semifinals) at the national meet. Like Rohn, he was a key part of the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams while also running on the 4x800m relay team that took third place. He also captured eighth place individually in the 800m.
After running a strong leg in the 4x800m relay and with only 20 minutes to recover, Anderson was able to run his leg in the 4x100m relay, qualifying the team to the finals.
"Max was a great leader and led the way for our sprint team. He was always a sprinter, but this year he was an all-around, do-it-all guy," Rohn said. "He became one of my closer friends because of it."
While the team missed the biggest team goal of a national title, Anderson feels the team gave it their absolute all and that a lot of runners stepped up in a big way throughout the year.
Reflections on Harper Careers
Anderson will move on to the University of Illinois and major in psychology. Looking back, he says he will miss his coaches and teammates the most.
"I feel like I've gained so much from Harper as a school and the track and field program. It'll make going to U of I so much easier," he said.
Anderson explained that the coaching staff was key to his success, and according to him, Zellner is well-deserving of the NJCAA Hall of Fame honor she has. He said coach Jim Macnider was a key part of his success in the 800m this year, and coaches Eric Wallor and Colin Weber (Wheeling, Ill./Wheeling) were two people he looked up to because they competed at the same level and were mentally tough in competition.
Rohn has yet to settle on a four-year school but will major in business management and minor in marketing. He says he will miss the team atmosphere with the athletes and being part of a close-knit group.
"Just being with your team every day after school and blowing off steam on the track-I wouldn't have traded it for anything," he said. "Coach Zellner always had my back and helped me the most, opening the door as far as four-year coaches goes."
Insights from Zellner
Zellner saw both athletes improve immensely in their two years at Harper. She saw Anderson trust the training more and become a better listener, which resulted in improved times in each meet.
"I'll miss his deep commitment to the sport and dedication to the team. Team devotion and leadership is important for Max and is what drives him," she said.
She also saw great improvement in Rohn as he trained hard and improved his times after a disappointing freshman season. As the season went on, Zellner saw his confidence and leadership grow as the team prepared for the national meet.
"He encouraged his teammates and worked for the team points even if it meant potentially sacrificing a personal goal in the 400m," Zellner said. "That demonstrated his personal growth and maturity."
"Both are very talented, and it was not surprising that they would qualify this year. They both worked very hard to qualify and devoted themselves to the team and personal accomplishments at the national meet. I am a better coach because of these two talented student-athletes."