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Staying on track: After Olympic trials, Rodriguez carrying momentum into season

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Isai Rodriguez makes his way to the finish at the OSU Invitational at the OSU Cross Country Course on October 17, 2020 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

As Isai Rodriguez steps on the track In Eugene, Oregon for the Olympic trials, a mix of emotions race through his body.

As he mentally prepares for the race, Rodriguez listens to rapper Lil Baby to get his blood pumping.

Before the Olympics trials, Isai was just a small-town kid with big dreams. He grew up in Ringwood, Oklahoma to Jorge and Jacky Rodriguez. “Isai” is a biblical name that means gift, and that he was to cross country coaches across the nation.

In high school Isai was a highly decorated runner. He was awarded All-State honors, the Meet of Champions champion, and was also Oklahoma’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

When it came time to attend college, Rodriguez had a tough decision to make. He had a gut feeling that Oklahoma State was the school for him.

“I don’t know really what drew me in, I just feel like I was destined to be here,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of circumstances were just adding up for me to choose OSU.”

Rodriguez ran on an AAU track team in high school and multiple athletes on the team were runners at OSU. He would hang out with them quite often, and they treated Isai like “family.”

Since signing at OSU, Isai has had the opportunity to compete on a national level and gain experiences like no other.

The Olympic environment was uncharted territory for Rodriguez, as it was his first time competing at Hayward Field.

“I was a little nervous,” Rodriguez said. “I had never been in that type of atmosphere.”

Rodriguez said the whole experience to him was a “blessing” and to compete with the nation’s best while representing his country was like a dream come true. It also gave him confidence moving forward.

“To have that reassurance that I got what it takes and that I’m able to compete with the best is a good sign that I’m headed in the right direction,” Rodriguez said.

After a third place finish this past season, Rodriguez said moving forward the team has “tunnel vision” ahead of OSU's 2021-22 season. 

“The whole team is focused,” Rodriguez said. “We came in third last year and we felt like we honestly ran safe. We were not all in, and just kind of running to safely get third or second and that was the outcome we got.”

Rodriguez said the team knew coming into this season that they either needed to be all in, or all out. Rather than taking last year’s approach of running conservatively, this year’s mind set was clear, run to win.

Isai has had a tremendous amount of personal success while at OSU. With a fourth-place finish in the 2018 NCAA Championship, Rodriguez earned the title of first team All-American.

Rodriguez has competed in multiple other events such as the Arturo Barrios Invitational, where He placed second. He also ran his way to back-to-back second place finishes in the Big 12 Conference Championship.

He kicked off the 2018 season with a victory at the Stanford Invitational, running in the 5,000-meter outdoor event. Then ended it with a second-place finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional.

With everyone retuning this year, Rodriguez says the team is looking “strong.”

“We got everybody back and then we added a couple more guys that could make a real difference,” Rodriguez said. We all know what we can do, and we all know what we are capable of.”

Rodriguez feels the momentum going into this year is good and remains hopeful for this upcoming season.

"We got a lot of good things ahead of us if we just stay focused and on track,” Rodriguez said.