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Michael Rodgers is running with a purpose

He’s setting his sights on beating Usain Bolt and the Jamaican 4×100 relay team at world championships

Michael Rodgers acts like he was born to run.

The 32-year-old from Ferguson, Missouri, has run 100 meters in 9.85 seconds, and competed against Olympic champion Usain Bolt’s 4×100 team in the 2013 Track and Field World Championships. The USA finished second.

But in the 2015 world championships, there was disappointment and heartbreak for the U.S., which had a commanding lead until an illegal baton exchange between Tyson Gay and Rodgers, who ran the anchor leg. The team was disqualified for passing the baton outside of the exchange zone. It was the fourth time in the last six championships that the U.S. failed to finish or was disqualified.

Rodgers is off to London now for redemption, competing in the 2017 IAAF world track and field championships beginning Saturday. He will be competing on the 4×100 relay team, again trying to vanquish Bolt and the Jamaican team. The final is set for Aug. 11.

Rodgers is one of the most experienced sprinters in the U.S., with gold medals from two U.S. indoor 60-meter titles, two U.S. outdoor 100-meter wins, four NAIA champion titles and numerous other awards.

However, Rodgers started his athletic career in basketball and football at Berkeley High School outside St. Louis. Despite his self-proclaimed talent in both, his close friend Ben Morton encouraged him to run track.

Rodgers recalls his community as tight-knit, despite racial and socioeconomic tensions in Ferguson, which came to a head when Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in 2014.

Rodgers left long before that and moved to St. Charles, Missouri, to run track at Lindenwood University. He transferred to Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, to do the same. It was there he learned that he could pursue a track and field career outside of school. He started competing in elite-level competitions, such as U.S. nationals and world junior championships in 2008.

Track has enabled him to travel from Albuquerque to Taipei, Taiwan, and he wants African-American youths to know that there are endless possibilities in the world.

“Track and field in the African-American community can sometimes be overlooked because no one really has the understanding of what can be after high school and/or college running track,” said Rodgers.

In 2011, shortly after he was dubbed the fourth fastest man in the world, Rodgers’ career came to a brief standstill. He consumed Jack3d, a supplement banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and was suspended from competing for nine months. When he completed the term, he only had 61 days to train for the Olympic trials. He still managed to secure a spot on 2012 Olympic team in the 4×100 relay, but did not win a medal.

Currently, Rodgers runs the 100-meter dash for the New York Empire team. He took home first place in the 100 meters during the second annual TrackTown Summer Series at Icahn Stadium in New York in early July.

“I am excited to be able to run with a team, have a good time and be on national television in front of the fans,” said Rodgers.

Now the world will be watching him and the U.S. team in London as they try to end Jamaica’s dominance in the 4×100-meter men’s relay.

Simone Benson is a multimedia journalism major at Morgan State University. She reports on food access and social justice, and recently helped produce a documentary in Havana.

Paul Holston journalism major from Summerville, SC. He attends Howard University and served as 2016-17 editor-in-chief of The Hilltop.