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Meet the winners of this year's Wheels Up! Photo Contest

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Jessica Rogers right at home in the pool. Photo courtesy Rogers family.

2011 Junior Athlete of the Year

Online Exclusive posted Monday, August 8, 2011 - 9:36am

At 45 pounds Rogers doesn't project a competitive posture. In fact, at first glance, she appears frail and dainty. But anyone who's competed against her knows she's a formidable opponent.

Jessica Rogers, 14, is the 2011 SPORTS ‘N SPOKES Junior Athlete of the Year. The Virginia resident was one of dozens of nominations received this year in a record-breaking response to the S’NS office.

Rogers received an engraved silver platter during the closing banquet of the 2011 National Junior Disability Championships (NJDC) in Saginaw, Mich. She will also receive a custom-built wheelchair, courtesy TiLite and a one-year subscription to S’NS.

“A lot of swimming went into this award,” says Rogers. “It’s a great honor to have been considered.”

Jessica Rogers during the 2011 National Junior Disability Championships receiving the 2011 SPORTS 'N SPOKES Junior Athlete of the Year. Photo courtest Rogers family.

At 45 pounds Rogers doesn’t project a competitive posture. In fact, at first glance, she appears frail and dainty. But anyone who’s competed against her knows she’s a formidable opponent.

Rogers began her athletic career at age 5 and quickly excelled in wheelchair basketball, track, hockey, and swimming. It was the freedom of the water that ultimately captured her interest, and in that instant a swimmer was born. “I’ve always loved being in the water,” says Rogers. “It’s a sport that’s not limiting – it’s freeing.”

In 2009, Rogers had to stop competing with her team, the Bennett Blazers, after outgrowing her racing chair. Chris Kaag, founder of IM Able Foundation, put her back on track, literally, with a new chair, and she returned in 2010 to take gold in the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800- meter events at the 2010 NJDC.  In the pool, she easily took command of the 100- meter breast stroke and the 200 individual medley.
Rogers’ passion for sports and her strong competitive nature have been a source of inspiration to not only other wheelchair athletes but strangers alike. Recently while on family vacation she spotted a “miss biceps competition.” Without hesitation, she rolled up to the registration table and submitted her entry to compete.

It was announced the competition would involve pushups, at which time the event host awkwardly asked if she could even do them. With a smile she dropped to the floor and proceeded to do 50 pushups in strict fashion.

Soon the crowd began to cheer her on and, needless to say, no other contestant came close. Rogers enjoys showing people that being in a wheelchair doesn’t prevent her from accomplishing anything.

Rogers was born with a rare condition known as caudal regression syndrome (CRS), a congenital disorder in which there is abnormal fetal development of the lower spine. As a result her spine ends at approximately T 7/10, she is a bilateral leg amputee, and has a very small lower anatomy.

Despite her medical condition Rogers has never let that stand in the way of greatness. Perhaps her competitive drive was instilled by her adoptive mother, Phyllis Rogers, a single mother of eight other adopted children, all with disabilities.  

Despite her grueling swim schedule, preparing to start her first year of high school, and trying to be a teenage girl, Rogers strives to help improve the lives of others by sharing her story and encouraging others into sports. Most recently, she founded the Caudal Regression Syndrome Association, a web-based resource service that offers those with CRS a host of information on the condition.

The SPORTS `N SPOKES Junior Athlete of the Year award is replete with history spanning back to its inception more than 20 years ago. S`NS founding editor Cliff Crase and wife Nancy felt the need for an award that recognized junior athletes and based the award on the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Jack Gerhardt award for adult athletes. “Junior sports was quickly becoming more popular, and we felt there needed to be something as prestigious as PVA’s award,” said Nancy Crase. “The junior athletes can now win this award and then go on to win the adult award.”

Due to the overwhelming number of nominations received this year, SPORTS ‘N SPOKES created a first runner-up recipient award. The athlete will receive a free one-year subscription to S ‘NS. Read more about Sean Burns here.

Do you know an exceptional young athlete? We’d love to hear about him or her. To nominate an athlete for the SPORTS `N SPOKES Junior Athlete of the Year, email

Jessica’s Links:

CRS Association

Jessica's CGS facebook Page


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2011 Junior Athlete of the Year


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